Israeli and Palestinian demonstrators blocked Highway 443 early Thursday morning to protest the ban on Palestinian vehicles from the road, which is a major artery connecting Jerusalem to Lod, Army Radio reported.
The protesters, a coalition of Jewish and Arab members of leftist organizations, carried signs which read, among other slogans, “Caution Apartheid Road” and “Paved Road on Pilfered Land,” Army Radio said.
“Highway 443 is an example of what is taking place in the territories,” one of the demonstrators told Army Radio. “[The authorities] are expropriating land from the Palestinians in order to build a highway which is then declared off limits to Palestinian traffic.”
“There is a policy here of apartheid,” Hadar Grievsky, another protester, told Army Radio. “Highways are built on roads that were seized from Palestinians and is only permitted to Jewish drivers.”
Organizers of the protest said that 70 demonstrators participated, most of them Palestinian residents of nearby towns. Israel Defense Forces soldiers and police arrived at the scene to disperse the crowd approximately 10 minutes after the road was blocked. Seven people were taken into custody for questioning, according to Army Radio.
The commander of the Binyamin police station, Chief Superintendent Benny Har-Nes, told Army Radio that law enforcement received information on the demonstrators’ plans to block the highway, enabling authorities to deploy the necessary amount of force.
“We knew of the plan to [block the road] and we prepared accordingly,” Har-Nes said. “We arrived at the scene within five minutes from the start of the event, and after trying to persuade them to evacuate willingly, we declared the matter an unlawful gathering and we cleared them out.