Israel Shuts Down Route 60 to Hold Settlers’ Marathon

NABLUS, April 9, 2015 (WAFA) – The Israeli authorities declared on Thursday it had shut down a major part of Nablus-Ramallah highway, also known as Route 60, as Jewish settlers illegally residing in the West Bank, are taking part in a marathon organized at the arterial road, according to Palestinian security sources.

Sources told WAFA the marathon will pass through the illegal ‘Ariel’ settlement and extend to ‘Shilo’ settlement. The road is the major and only highway linking between Nablus and Ramallah in the West Bank, making the closure a decision that would hamper Palestinians’ movement between the major cities.

On the Bible Marathon website, organizers of the event invite Israelis to take part “in a huge athletic event including hundreds of runners from throughout Israel and the world over.”

“The runners travel the course of the Man of Benjamin, culminating in a huge, exciting EXPO event among the ruins and mosaics of ancient Shiloh,” the organizers said in reference to the marathon, which commemorate a run performed by a biblical figure Benjamin in the book of Samuel.

Meanwhile, dozens of local and international activists rallied near the Sinjil junction, located along the highway, in protest of the Israeli closure of the road, Abdullah Abu Rahma, coordinator of the Anti-Settlement Committee, told WAFA. He said the activists were assaulted by Israeli forces when they attempted to get into the road.

Images of Palestinian protestors and journalists being assaulted by the Israeli police circulated social media.

Shilo settlement, which held the marathon finish line, is home to just under 3,000 Jewish settlers, and is considered illegal under international law.

More than a quarter of Shilo was built on private Palestinian land, according to Israeli human rights group Peace Now, and has been cited in past peace negotiations as an area to be transferred to Palestinian control.

Thursday’s marathon comes less than two weeks after the “Right to Movement” marathon took place in Bethlehem last month.

The athletes ran two laps of the same route because the organizers couldn’t find 42 kilometers of uninterrupted road under the control of the Palestinian Authority.