Negev Roads to be Closed - or Jammed - This Summer

In anticipation of the crisis scheduled to overtake Gush Katif and the western Negev this summer, the army has prepared its own Road Map plan for Negev residents. Massive road-jammings are expected.

, | updated: 10:57

The expected crisis has two main parts: the expulsion/withdrawal from Gush Katif, and the resultant protests and disturbances along western Negev roads.

In meetings between representatives of the army and Negev local councils, it has been agreed that at least two main Negev roads will be totally closed to local residents during the course of the scheduled disengagement. Other roads will be "shared" between the army and the residents, and two new bypass routes will be paved to the south of the region.

At present, the only civilian entrance to the Gush Katif bloc of Jewish communities in Gaza is the one known as the Kisufim Junction. The full length of the road leading from Kibbutz Re'im westward to that junction - nearly five miles in total - will be totally closed to civilian traffic. The army also wished to close two other roads leading to Kibbutz Re'im, but gave in on one of them. Instead, the route from Re'im northward to Kibbutz Saad will be shared by the army and the residents, with military checkpoints all along the route, while the road from Re'im southward to the Nir Oz-Maon area will be closed.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been empowered to declare Gush Katif and northern Shomron areas "closed military zones," but it is not known when he will do this. Anti-disengagement leaders say that the day he closes one of these areas will be the day they will call upon the masses to arrive at - or near - these places.

The security coordinator of one of the Negev communities said that he has not yet been informed of the new "Road Map" plans. He noted that the army is chiefly concerned about the prospect of right-wing road-blockings. Wherever the roadblocks begin, he agreed, "that's where the protestors' jamming the roads will begin - and then we'll all be in trouble."

Roads closed to civilian traffic have been marked in red on the new "Road Map," while "shared" roads are yellow. Green roads are those that residents will continue to be able to use almost freely, and two new bypass roads - marked as blue- are scheduled to be paved for the residents' use during the disengagement period.

"This summer there will be a war without live weapons," writes Ariel Kahane in the B'Sheva weekly. "The army and police will deploy on one side on behalf of the Government of Israel, and on the other side will be tens or hundreds of thousands of people. The regime's agents are training for their mission: the transport of the Israeli citizens from Gaza and northern Shomron. They are conducting exercises, formulating orders, locating routes on which to advance and retreat, preparing deceptions. The other side - citizens of Israel - will also use the same methods."

The "Road Map" deals chiefly with the relatively sparsely-populated areas to the east of Gush Katif. It does not, however, specify the disposition of roads in the vicinity of the three northern Gaza communities scheduled for destruction. This area boasts more roads and more drivers using them, and great difficulty can be expected in keeping the roads clear for the transport of expelled residents.

Neither have been plans publicized for the approach road to Netzarim in Gaza, nor for the northern Shomron.

Bentzy Lieberman, head of the Yesha Council, has said, "Wherever there will be siege, we will break through."