Ramallah: Israeli colonists around Bethlehem have been preventing Palestinians from using a network of colonist roads and have been imposing tough restrictions on Palestinians accessing their own roads.

Residents of the Efrat colony near Bethlehem believe that all roads around their colony are reserved for Israelis only and Palestinians are not allowed to access them.

On Monday, two colonists, aged 19 and 22, riding a motorcycle near Efrat drove past a Palestinian vehicle and forced the driver off the road. The colonists used pistols to pull over a passing Palestinian bus and proceeded to threaten the occupants. “One of the colonists put the pistol next to the head of one of the Palestinians and told him to start praying for his life,” said Israeli police in a statement.

The Israeli colonists warned Palestinian passengers to avoid what they claimed to be the colonists’ roads which the Palestinians do not have the right to access under any circumstances.

The Palestinian passengers lodged a complaint with the Palestinian-Israeli Security District Liaison Office, where the Israeli occupation officers launched an investigation into the incident.

The Israeli police announced the arrest of the two colonists who threatened several Palestinians at gunpoint. The Israeli police claimed that the pistols the colonists used were only made of plastic and they were mere “toys”.

A senior Palestinian officer at the Palestinian-Israeli Security District Liaison Office told Gulf News that this was not the first time Palestinian passengers were stopped and threatened to suspend their accessing roads claimed by colonists to be fully dedicating for them. “We have raised this issue with our Israeli counterparts repeatedly and they promised to bury such violations once and for all, but it seems that their promises have all been empty,” said the officer who demanded anonymity as he is not allowed to speak to the media.

“This time, it is dangerous as the colonists were armed, according to the testimonies of the passengers, and the Palestinians do not buy the Israeli version of the story that the colonists were armed with plastic pistols.”

The officer said that the colonists usually hurl stones at Palestinian vehicles and passengers on the roads. “When injuries are reported among Palestinians, we raise the violations and aggression of the Israeli colonists with the Israeli security officers,” he said. “We are fully aware of the conferences, meetings and campaigns of colonists who harshly discriminate against the Palestinians, depriving them of the right of movement.”

He said that apart from the fact that Palestinians are not allowed to use ‘Israelis-only’ roads defined by the occupation forces, the Israeli colonist policies discriminate against Palestinians and do not want them to use even other roads which are far away from the colonies and connect hundreds of villages and towns with West Bank cities.