The Israeli army has opened a new road for Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip, plowing over Palestinian agricultural land in violation of peace accords, witnesses and media reports said Monday.
Israeli military radio said the army opened the road on Monday to take Jewish settlers from the Karni crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip to the Netzarim settlement.
The road runs over Palestinian-run areas and was built without the permission of Yasser Arafat's self-rule Palestinian Authority.
Witnesses in the area said the army plowed out and paved the roughly four kilometers (2.5 mile) bypass road over Palestinian farmland.
The some 7,000 Jewish settlers living among more than a million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have often come under attack while traveling near Arab areas, in particular during the past two months of deadly violence.
The Karni crossing point and the road leading to it have been particularly hot flashpoints, with near daily clashes between soldiers and Gaza Strip residents.
Witnesses said the Israeli army began work on the road more than two weeks ago and that they had uprooted some 200 olive trees belonging to Palestinian farmers and razed agricultural land without providing any compensation.
Israel's Haaretz newspaper quoted military sources as saying the road was "a response to an urgent security need."
The newspaper added that Palestinian homes were also destroyed to create a buffer of 75 meters (yards) of "dead ground" on either side of the road.
"The new road is one of several unilateral moves by the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) in its attempts to provide greater security for the settlers," Haaretz said.
The presence of Jewish settlements in their midst is one of the greatest bones of contention for the Palestinians -- GAZA CITY (AFP)
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