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Monday, January 22, 2007


Barriers in the Middle East

Israel got a lot of favorable press a few weeks ago (e.g., Washington Post, Los Angeles Times) for its promises to remove military roadblocks in the West Bank, an action promised by Israeli Prime Minister Olmert as part of "boosting moderate Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in his struggle with the Hamas movement."

As it turns out...not so much:

The Israel Defense Forces admitted yesterday that the 44 dirt obstacles it said had been removed from around West Bank villages did not actually exist.

Last Tuesday, the IDF announced that it had removed 44 dirt obstacles that blocked access roads to West Bank villages, to fulfill promises made by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting a month ago. Olmert had pledged measures to ease the lives of Palestinian civilians.

This statement confirms a claim made recently by United Nations organizations operating in the territories: that most of these barriers were not removed, because they had not existed for months.
Not that these 44 barriers amounted to much of a concession anyway; there are more than 400 such barriers.

Meanwhile, other barriers are going up. But not in Palestine:

Thousands of Lebanese protesters blocked main roads in Beirut and around the country with rubble and burning tyres on Tuesday at the start of a general strike called by the opposition to try to topple the government.

The opposition, which includes Hezbollah, is demanding a unity government and early elections.

Most main roads inside Beirut and into the city were blocked. Highways linking the capital to north and south Lebanon as well as to the Syrian capital Damascus were also cut off at several locations.

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