Mofaz to Rescind Ban on Arab Traffic on Gush Etzion Highway

Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz told London reporters Thursday that his order to ban private Arab vehicles from the road where terrorists attacked Sunday will be lifted when the killers are nabbed.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, | updated: 13:07

Two young women and a 15-year-old boy were murdered and three others were injured after the Arab terrorists took advantage of the recent removal of IDF checkpoints as a good will measure to the Palestinian Authority (PA).

The attack was similar to the murder of two high school boys several months ago at the nearby Beit Haggai junction, less than a month after the government told the IDF to ease travel restrictions on Arabs in Hevron.

The New York Times Friday quoted an unnamed security source saying that Israel is considering separate roads for Jews and Arabs. "We think it is necessary to separate traffic on the roads, not all the roads, but the main roads, where Israelis are most vulnerable. It doesn't call for complete separation everywhere, and we see this as sort of a stopgap measure," the source told the Times.

Mofaz said this week's ban on Arab travel is "not strategic" and added that he is opposed to separating Arab and Jewish traffic. "The moment the terrorists know only Israelis are moving on this road, they will attack every car," Mofaz said.

The PA has condemned the idea of separate roads, comparing it to South African apartheid.

The Defense Minister did not outline a strategy to prevent future attacks. Sunday's victims were standing at a bus stop, which also serves as a hitchhiking station, at the intersection of Highway 60, from Jerusalem to the Hevron Hills, and the road to the Gush Etzion communities of Alon Shvut, Bat Ayin and Kfar Etzion.

The government recently completed a large traffic circle at the intersection to enable soldiers to inspect Arab vehicles while allowing Jewish drivers to pass through. The checkpoints were taken down on orders from the government, which said it wanted to build up confidence in the PA administration.

Three days after Mofaz responded to the killings and ordered Arab traffic off the road, he told the IDF to relax the ban and allow public vehicles and some private cars to travel. The roadblocks included Jewish vehicles and caused long lineups of cars during the Sukkot holiday.

PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) told U.S. President George W. Bush Thursday that he was trying to stop terrorists from attacking Israelis.

Mofaz commented, "We didn't see any kind of decision or anti-terror activity on the Palestinian side." He said that Israel would carry out its own roadmap obligations to dismantle outposts "in the right time." President Bush has repeatedly demanded that Israel tear down the communities, most of which are located on hilltops in Judea and Samaria.