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Ariel mayor, IDF clash over road access from PA town

"We rely on the army and we love the army, but if the high-ranking IDF officials don’t understand the importance of blocking this axis point, we won’t accept this,” says Ariel Mayor Yair Chetboun.

Citing security concerns, Ariel Mayor Yair Chetboun is engaged in a war of wills with the IDF over a road connecting his town to the Arab town of Salfit. Chetboun has been blocking the road using heavy equipment, while the IDF continues to clear it. Credit: Courtesy.
Citing security concerns, Ariel Mayor Yair Chetboun is engaged in a war of wills with the IDF over a road connecting his town to the Arab town of Salfit. Chetboun has been blocking the road using heavy equipment, while the IDF continues to clear it. Credit: Courtesy.

The mayor of the Shomron town of Ariel, Yair Chetboun, is currently in a game of cat and mouse with the Israeli military over his insistence that part of a key artery, which connects his town to the nearby P.A. village of Salfit, remain blocked due to security considerations. 

On Thursday evening, with the use of heavy machinery, Chetboun personally oversaw the erection of mountains of dirt and the placement of barriers on what is known as Route 4744.

Samaria’s Route 4744 connects the Israeli community of Ariel with the P.A. town of Salfit. Source: Google Maps.

Chetboun said that he felt forced to block the road after the municipality introduced numerous security proposals to regional IDF officials which fell on deaf ears. 

According to a statement released by Chetboun’s office, Arabs have used the route to launch terrorist attacks in the past, and as recently as last week, car thieves snuck into Ariel, stole vehicles and used the road as an escape route. 

A spokesperson for the mayor explained to JNS that in April of 2022, two Arab terrorists hid alongside the road waiting to verify that the security guards at the city’s checkpoint booth were Jews and not Arabs before opening fire, murdering 23-year-old Vyacheslav Golev. Golev used his body to shield his fiancée, Victoria Fligelman, also a guard inside the booth, from the spray of bullets, thus saving her life. 

Around 24 hours following Chetboun’s attempt to block the road, IDF forces arrived at the scene and cleared the obstruction.

“The blockade near the city of Ariel was carried out in an illegal operation, outside of the accepted routes and without coordination with the security system. The axis is reopened and the issue will be investigated,” the IDF spokesperson told JNS.

But Chetboun remained determined to keep the route closed.

Back at the site late on Sunday night, Chetboun stood alongside a backhoe busy re-blocking the path. At the same time, a welder was working on an old IDF gate, so that it could be used as a barrier to block traffic.  

Chetboun filmed a video telling residents, “We understand that after Oct. 7, the reality has changed, and the security situation is first and foremost our responsibility … We rely on the army and we love the army, but if the high-ranking IDF officials don’t understand the importance of blocking this axis point, we won’t accept this.”

He added, “We are working through political means, as well as here in the field as you can see, and we are waiting to have a meeting with the IDF regional commander, to discuss the solutions we’ve come with and which are available. We hope they [the army] will accept these solutions, because the security of our residents, comes before everything else.”

Nevertheless, according to Chetboun’s spokesperson, on Monday evening the army was back again and once again cleared the road.

Chetboun’s spokesperson said he is has no doubt that the vast majority of Ariel’s residents strongly stand behind their mayor for taking this initiative to enhance their security. 

An Ariel resident who asked not to be identified told JNS, “The residents of Ariel and Salfit have lived harmoniously for decades. Ariel businesses, construction operations and industries have employed residents of Salfit and continue to do so. But, sadly, there are security risks that come with these arrangements, and it would be naive to count on the good will of our neighbors alone.”

Chetboun, “an IDF officer who served both in Judea and Samaria and in Gaza during this war, has a clear understanding of how to balance the opportunities that Ariel presents to Salfit with the security needs of our community,” the resident added. “If he sees a need to close off the road, then that’s what needs to be done until further notice.”

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