U.N. expert urges Israel to halt highway project in Beit Safafa

May 13, 2013 at 12:40 PM
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JERUSALEM, May 13 (UPI) -- An independent U.N. expert Monday urged Israel to stop building a settlement highway that would bisect a Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem.

The "Begin Highway" would negatively affect about 9,300 people in the Beit Safafa neighborhood, which has been under Israeli control since 1967, U.N. Special Rapporteur Richard Falk said in a statement released by the United Nations in New York.

"The projected six-lane highway extending 1.5 kilometers (about 1 mile) will do irreparable damage to the community, cutting off local roads and blocking access to kindergartens, schools, health clinics, offices, and places of worship," Falk said.

"The residents of Beit Safafa, who were not consulted at any stage of the planning, will be placed in an absurd situation where places within their own community -- previously accessible within 10 minutes' walk -- would require travel by car on bypass roads and a bridge."

Falk said the purpose of the highway to to allow the annexation of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc and allow for further expansion of Israel's settlements around East Jerusalem.

"Companies taking part in the construction of the illegal highway in Beit Safafa, under the auspices of the Moriah Jerusalem Development Co. and their implementing partner, D.Y. Barazani Ltd., must be held responsible," he said.

The project was started in September and a petition by affected residents was rejected in Jerusalem District Court in December. An appeal to the Israeli High Court was turned down in March. Another High Court hearing on the issue is set for June 26.

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