Israeli authorities have opened a natural spring in southern Jerusalem to visitors, “but on the explicit condition that Palestinians not be allowed to enter the site”, reported Haaretz.
The decision by police yesterday meant that the Ein Hanya spring “was kept under heavy guard by the police and Border Police, which even closed the road leading to Palestinian towns”.
Meanwhile, “hundreds of Israelis visited the site”, said Haaretz.
As described by the paper, Ein Hanya “is one of the largest and most important natural springs in the Jerusalem area”.
While it is located within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, Palestinian residents of neighbouring village Al-Walaja “regularly visit it”.
Much of Al-Walaja’s land has been confiscated by Israeli authorities over the decades, with village land straddling the 1967 ‘Green Line’
The official opening of the spring as a tourism site was subject to repeated delays, thanks to “a dispute over whether entry fees should be charged”, as well as the “police’s demand that Palestinians not be allowed to enter”.
Police have also insisted that a checkpoint be relocated further south, “so that it would separate Palestinian towns from the spring”, at an estimated cost of 12 million shekels ($3.4 million).
The spring has now opened for just three days, before closing again “until the checkpoint is moved”.
According to Haaretz, “over the past few days, police have stepped up enforcement against Palestinian farmers seeking to work land near the spring”, and have “even forced a farmer to leave”.
Shaul Goldstein, the nature authority’s director, “said his agency has no objection to Palestinians visiting the spring, nor does it have any interest in moving the checkpoint.”
However, he noted that “since Ein Hanya is located in Jerusalem, from the defence establishment’s perspective, any Palestinian who goes there is in the capital illegally.”