TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma'an) -- An Israeli bus company on Monday will begin operating Palestinian-only lines from the West Bank to Israel as a result of complaints from settlers, Israeli media reported Sunday.
The new bus routes will be operated by Israel's Afikim company and take Palestinian workers from the Eyal crossing, near Qalqiliya, to Israel.
Israel's Ministry of Transportation defended the plan by saying that buses traveling in the area were overcrowded and there were tensions between settlers and Palestinians, the Israeli daily Ynet reported.
Many settlers complain that Palestinian passengers are a security risk, an Israeli transport ministry source told Ynet.
A Palestinian who holds a permit to enter Israel is legally allowed to use public transportation and can therefore travel on any bus route he or she chooses, Haaretz reports.
While Israeli transport officials are not officially calling them segregated buses, Ynet says the new bus lines have only been publicly advertised in Palestinian villages, with the notices in Arabic only.
The proposal to implement separate bus lines was first presented by Israel's Ministry of Transportation last November.
"The attempt at bus segregation is appalling, and the current arguments about 'security needs' and 'overcrowding' must not be allowed to camouflage the blatant racism of the demand to remove Palestinians from buses," B'Tselem executive director Jessica Montell said at the time.
Last November, Israeli police ordered Palestinian workers off a bus at the request of settlers.
Settlement mayor Ron Nachman wrote on his Facebook page last year that he was working with the Israeli army, police and transport ministry to stop Palestinians boarding buses that go to Ariel.
"All of them are working on this problem, and we hope that they will soon find a solution to the reality that is bothering our people," he said.