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Israel to ease restrictions on Palestinian travel in West Bank

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Israel's military announced Monday it plans to further ease restrictions on Palestinian travel in the West Bank, delivering what appeared to be a first in a series of gestures requested by the United States as part of renewed peace talks.

Indirect U.S.-mediated negotiations began earlier this month, with a U.S. envoy shuttling between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Palestinian officials say the Obama administration has asked for Israeli confidence-building steps, including removing more West Bank checkpoints, releasing some Palestinian prisoners and allowing more goods into blockaded Gaza.

For the past decade, since the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising, Israel has severely restricted Palestinian movement with hundreds of obstacles and checkpoints, as well as its West Bank separation barrier. The restrictions were meant to keep out Palestinian attackers and largely remained in place after the uprising ended several years ago.

In recent months, Israel has made it easier for Palestinians to travel in the West Bank, and Monday's announcement signaled a further step in that direction. About 85 manned roadblocks and more than 400 unmanned obstacles, like metal gates and earthen mounds, remain in place, according to U.N. figures.

Asked to comment on the Israeli measures, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat noted that Israel has yet to meet international commitments it has made, such as halting all settlement construction. "We will see what happens on the ground and judge it," Erekat said.

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Israel to ease restrictions on Palestinian travel in West Bank 05/24/10 [Last modified: Monday, May 24, 2010 10:56pm]
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