A coordinated operation of the Shabak, IDF and police has captured over the past few months a large number of participants in ‘popular terror’ from the village of Kharbatha al-Misbah, some 10 miles west of Ramallah. The village is located just off Route 443, which is the alternative route to Jerusalem used by residents of central Israel.
The terrorist cell’s 16 members are suspected of throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at Israeli vehicles on highway 443.
Route 443 begins as a local street near downtown Lod. Leaving Lod to the east, it becomes a divided highway, which continues to the Modi’in area. It then continues through Judea and Samaria in the Matte Binyamin Regional Council, near Ramallah. Upon passing Givat Ze’ev Junction, its official designation becomes Highway 45 which continues directly to Jerusalem’s Begin Boulevard. A spur, Route 436, also links it with Jerusalem through Giv’at Ze’ev and the Ramot neighborhood.
Several access roads connecting Arab villages with a section of Route 443 were closed in September 2000 due to the outbreak of the Second Intifada. Frequent Molotov cocktail attacks and fatal shootings on Israeli traffic led to the erection of anti-sniper barricades on parts of the highway adjacent to Arab-populated areas. However, in March 2008, Israel’s Supreme Court began to curtail the IDF’s ability to limit Palestinian traffic in this section, even in order to prevent attacks. On December 29, 2009 the court upheld a petition against an IDF order barring Palestinian traffic from this highway, terror victims notwithstanding, and the ruling has been the permanent law since May 28, 2010, permitting unrestricted Palestinian traffic.
Some of the suspects who have been arrested this time around were previously arrested for similar terror activity, but returned to throwing Molotov cocktails shortly after their release.