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UN rights expert urges Israel to stop construction of highway through Palestinian territory

UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk [official website] on Monday urged [press release] Israel to stop construction of a highway that would cut off the local roads of Palestinian community Beit Safafa. The residents of Beit Safafa were not consulted during during the planning of this six-lane highway, known as the "Begin Highway," and previous petitions to stop the construction have been rejected by the courts. Another hearing of the petition has been scheduled before the High Court on June 26. If the highway is permitted, Falk warns, it will cause "irreparable damage to the community, cutting off local roads and blocking access to kindergartens, schools, health clinics, offices, and places of worship," and will "[endanger] the livelihoods of some 9,300 people."

Tensions remain high between Israel and Palestine. In December the Israeli government unanimously rejected [JURIST report] the recent UN General Assembly resolution upgrading Palestine's UN status to non-member observer state. Also in December Falk called on Israel [JURIST report] to fully implement and continue to support the recent conflict-ending ceasefire agreement with Palestinians in Gaza. In November UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay pressured Israel to avoid strikes on civilian structures [JURIST report] in Gaza. This came only days after Pillay called for official peace talks between the two sides [JURIST report]. In August Amnesty International [advocacy website] called on Israel [JURIST report] to investigate its treatment of Palestinian detainees, alleging that two had been mistreated.

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