Beginning Sunday evening and continuing through Wednesday, Israeli soldiers set up a blockade around the town of ar-Ram, east of Jerusalem, preventing vehicles from entering or leaving the town.According to the Israeli military spokesperson, the town of 60,000 people is being blockaded due to a recent increase in stone throwing by area youth.
The blockade has prevented teachers and students from getting to school, workers from getting to their workplace, and patients from getting to the hospital via ambulance.
All four lanes of traffic on the main road in and out of the town were blockaded with large boulders and concrete blocks put in place by Israeli soldiers Sunday night. The soldiers have remained in place since Sunday to ensure that no residents attempt to move the blockade or get around it with their vehicles.
The mayor of ar-Ram, Sarhan Jasir Saleima, told the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, “ This is collective punishment. It’s true, there were incidents. But how many people were there? No more than 20 to 30 little kids who see this as a game. If something like this would happen in Tel Aviv, would they close down the whole city? And why would there be army or police patrols around here anyway? Israelis don’t come here.”
The blockade has had a much larger impact in ar-Ram than similar blockades have had in other towns in the West Bank, as the town serves as a transportation hub for the entire West Bank due to its central location near the Qalandiya checkpoint. Palestinians and international visitors to the West Bank go to ar-Ram to catch shared taxis to various parts of the West Bank.
Because of this blockade, the transportation infrastructure in the entire West Bank has been severely impacted – particularly for those who depend on the shared taxi system to get to school or work.
The Israeli military gave no indication as to when the blockade will end. When questioned by reporters, a military spokesperson told a Ha’aretz reporter, “Placing obstructions in Judea and Samaria [an Israeli settler term for the West Bank] is done in accordance with situational and security assessments.”
The situation in ar-Ram is made especially difficult as the town is surrounded by the Israeli Annexation Wall on three sides, and on the fourth side runs an Israeli settler highway that is forbidden to Palestinians.