TEL AVIV (May. 18)
Israel is establishing a special unit of nearly 2,000 border police to patrol four roads that will be used by Palestinians traveling between the newly autonomous Gaza Strip and Jericho districts.
While announcing plans for the so-called “safe passage routes” through Israel at a news conference, Police Chief Assaf Hefetz warned that security forces could not guarantee that terrorists would not take advantage of their free passage rights to carry out attacks against Israelis.
Hefetz admitted that Israeli police officials had had little prior input concerning the four routes because Israeli-Palestinian agreements covering regulations for the roads’ use had been made by political leaders without consultations with the police.
“It’s not as if the four roads, two passing from Jericho to Gaza north of Jerusalem and two south of the capital, are going to have high fences built on each side,” the police chief said.
Police Minister Moshe Shahal told the Labor Knesset faction shortly before Hefetz spoke to the press that Palestinian cars with special “autonomy identification” will have to clock in at the beginning and end of each trip, registering the names of all drivers and passengers at each checkpoint.
Shahal said vehicles would not be allowed to make any stops on the roads and police patrols along the route would make spot checks of vehicles in transit, noting the time of their arrival at each checkpoint to ensure they had not stopped anywhere along the way.
Under normal circumstances, only one route will be in use at a time, although one or two more would be opened under special circumstances. The routes will be in use only during daylight hours, closing at night.
In his address to the Labor Party faction, Shahal said that he had asked the government to provide funding for an additional 1,400 police officers to patrol the roads.
A new police district staffed by an additional 3,000 officers will also be established in the next few days to provide security for Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.