Israel partly opens West Bank road to Palestinians

BEIT SIRA, West Bank (AP) - The Israeli military partially opened a West Bank highway to Palestinian drivers on Friday to comply with a ruling of the country's highest court.

The road, known as Highway 443, is a major link between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and is heavily traveled by Israeli commuters. Much of its length runs through the West Bank, one of the territories Palestinians claim for a their hoped-for state and parts of it were paved on land expropriated from Palestinians.

The Israeli military, which maintains overall control of the West Bank, banned Palestinian cars in 2002 after a string of Palestinian shooting attacks on the road killed Israeli motorists.

In 2007, with Israeli-Palestinian violence winding down, local Palestinians petitioned Israel's Supreme Court, demanding to be allowed to use the road. The court agreed that the ban was discriminatory and ordered the highway opened, despite the military's argument that the move would endanger Israelis because it could allow militants to easily access the road and escape into Palestinian villages.

Military spokesman Peter Lerner said Friday the military had fully complied with the court ruling.

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