Jerusalem, Ramallah gear up for Obama

JERUSALEM, March 19 (UPI) -- Security was beefed up in Jerusalem and Ramallah ahead of U.S. President Obama's first presidential visit, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.

In Jerusalem, thousands of Israeli police and army units are to be deployed along the routes Obama and his entourage will use during the three-day visit to Israel, which begins Wednesday.


Security preparations have been coordinated with the U.S. Security Service and other personnel charged with securing the president's visit, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

The road to the King David Hotel, where Obama will be staying, will be sealed off Tuesday and residents won't be permitted to park vehicles along the route. Elsewhere in the city, already adorned with U.S. flags, authorities warned vehicles will be towed if they are left on routes to be used by the American president.

Public transport will also be affected with some bus routes adjusted due to security concerns, officials said.

While most Jerusalemites took the security preparations in stride, others complained they would fail to arrive at work on time because of changes in public transportation. Others questioned whether Obama's visit to Israel is worth the fuss, Channel One and Channel 2 said.


In Ramallah, Palestinian security forces are prepared for Obama's visit. security forces spokesman Adnan Dmeiri told the Ma'an News Agency military, national security, police and presidential security services completed security and logistical preparations for the president's visit to the West Bank city.

"Palestinian security forces preserve the right to have full sovereignty," he said.

Some posters portraying Obama put up along the streets in Ramallah and Bethlehem were defaced with a large "X" over his face and others were torn down and trampled, Ma'an said.

On Monday, Palestinians in Bethlehem pulled down a billboard of the U.S. president and spray-painted a swastika and X's on it before a taxi cab drove over it, Ynetnews reported.

Obama is to visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Palestinian policemen deployed in the city were unable to stop demonstrators from burning pictures of Obama, The Jerusalem Post reported. A Palestinian security official said action wouldn't be taken against those who receive permission to protest during Obama's visit, the newspaper said.

Munthir Ama, chairman of a youth center in a refugee camp near Bethlehem, told Ma'an Obama is "persona non grata in Bethlehem" because of what he called the United States' anti-Palestinian position.


"The U.S. administration should realize that part of the Palestinian people's suffering results from the U.S. pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian policies," Ama said.

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