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Israel opened a high-speed rail link between Tel Aviv’s international airport and Jerusalem on Tuesday, part of a $2 billion project that has drawn Palestinian complaints over its route through small parts of the occupied West Bank.
The Palestinian village of Beit Iksa in the occupied West Bank is seen in the background as Israel's new high-speed rail line travels on its tracks in Jerusalem September 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
The train will cut travel time between Ben-Gurion Airport and a new, 80-metre-(260-foot)-deep underground terminal at the entrance to Jerusalem to around 20 minutes. By road, the trip takes at least 40 minutes.
At the airport, the bright red train drew smiles from eager passengers.
“It was like a dream come true ... It’s really quite amazing
and will be a valuable asset to people wanting to get to and from the airport,” said Manchester-born Eli Rothbard, 45, a ground services employee at Ben Gurion.
A view shows a new Israeli high-speed rail service that connects Ben Gurion airport with Jerusalem as seen from the the occupied West Bank September 25, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
The train, traveling at speeds of up to 160 kilometers per hour (100 mph), traverses a series of new tunnels and bridges, passing through hills between Jerusalem and the airport, about 40 km (25 miles) away.
The line runs through sections of land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war near the Palestinian village of Beit Surik, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and in the Latrun Valley, about midway between the holy city and Ben-Gurion airport.
Palestinians who live in the West Bank are largely barred by Israel from traveling abroad via Ben-Gurion, and cross overland to Jordan instead to fly out of the airport in Amman. Israel cites security concerns for the ban.
“It is very sad that you see a railway and see modern technology on your land and inside your land and you cannot use it or exploit it because of the element of power of the occupation,” said Mohammed al-Tari, 55, from Beit Surik.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Israel of “illegally making use of occupied Palestinian land” in setting the train’s route, which will eventually include a direct high-speed link between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv city itself.
Erekat said the train was part of Israel’s “agenda of turning its occupation into annexation”.
This article first appeared on www.reuters.com
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