On Sunday, brothers Hallel Menachem and Yagel Yaakov Yaniv, both from the community of Har Bracha, were gunned down by a terrorist at point-blank range as they drove on Route 60 through the Arab village of Huwara, just south of Shechem (Nablus).
The terrorist waited in hiding on the side of the road for nearly 30 minutes, scoping for a target, Israel television reported. Once heavy traffic built up, he charged the car and fired. The young men had no chance of escape.
Some are asking whether the brothers would have been spared if the “Huwara Bypass Road” had been completed, allowing Israelis traveling to and from central Samaria communities including Yitzhar, Elon Moreh, Itamar and Har Bracha to use a safer route instead of the current route through the hostile village.
In 2017, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government approved an 800 million shekel plan (around $220 million) to construct bypass roads throughout Judea and Samaria, including the Huwara Bypass Road between the Tapuach and Yitzhar Junctions, to improve security for Israeli motorists while creating safer and modernized roads for Jewish and Arab commuters alike.
However, under the previous government, Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, the head of the Labor Party, froze road projects in Judea and Samaria, including the bypass road, a spokesperson for the Samaria Regional Council told JNS.
In October 2022, JNS reported that, during an exchange with an audience member on Channel 12, Michaeli stated, “It’s a shame to invest in a place that, at the end of the day, won’t be part of Israel.”
Afterwards, Michaeli denied that her ministry had cut existing projects, claiming her remarks were in regard to future construction proposals.
Israel’s current minister of transportation, Miri Regev (Likud), got the bypass road back on track, and according to her spokesperson, the project was scheduled to be completed by January 2025.
However, following the deadly attack this week, Regev toured the bypass road construction site along with Samaria Regional Council Head Yossi Dagan and IDF Central Command head Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, vowing to complete it much sooner.
A statement from her office said the minister “instructed all relevant bodies to immediately advance the completion of the road in the coming months,” well before the anticipated deadline, explaining that there was funding available, and if necessary, more workers would be hired to make it happen.
Dagan added that “the road can and must be completed within the next five months.”
Yigal Dilmoni, the former CEO of the Yesha Council of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, who was in his role when the bypass road was initially approved, told JNS, “The road from the onset was budgeted and built for safety reasons—namely to prevent traffic accidents while improving the lives of both Jews and Arabs.”
He continued, “But the Arabs have been impeding the construction by building illegally on the route and damaging the construction site, causing delays.
“It’s a very important road which the Arabs also want as it alleviates traffic since drivers avoid having to go through the village [Huwara] and get stuck in traffic. I’m glad it is now going forward in full force” said Dilmoni.
Yonaton Behar, who has lived in Har Bracha (the two slain brothers’ hometown) for the past 36 years, told JNS he doesn’t know how many lives the bypass road might save, “but from a security perspective, it definitely is an improvement from the present situation.
“I am definitely in favor of the road, as I believe the vast majority of settlers in Gav Hahar [the central mountain ridge] are, mainly because I believe the new road will open up more opportunities for further settlement of the area,” said Behar.
Ezri Tubi (aka Ezri ToBe), a Zionist activist from Yitzhar, told JNS that he is nervous for his family when they drive on the current road.
“Driving through Huwara is something that we need to be cautious about. Especially when my wife is driving with my kids, I’m much more nervous about it. You never know where it [terrorism] can come from. Especially with traffic jams, it is so easy for a terrorist to do something and you can’t run for your life. You are stuck inside the village with nowhere to go,” he said.
“I told my wife: These are very sensitive times and you have to be on the alert—don’t be on your phone, keep your eyes open because anything can happen. Don’t let anything get you by surprise.”
That said, Tubi stressed, “We don’t let fear get in the way, we still drive.”
He also supports the completion of the new route.
“A bypass road would for the time being solve the problem but this is not a real solution for terror against civilians. The terrorists can always find a way to get to the bypass road as well. But the more separation there is, the more security there is for Jews,” said Tubi.