BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A taxi driver tried to set fire into his car early Wednesday after a police officer gave him a traffic ticket because he parked in an off-limits area between Bethlehem and Beit Jala.
Ashraf Abul Sheikh, a father of 10 from Aida refugee camp, told Ma’an: ”I wanted to set fire to my taxi and keep myself inside it to explode because I am exploding from the new regulations given by the traffic police in Bethlehem. My friends pulled me from the car and saved my life, but I have no doubt that I will do it again if the situation remains the same.”
“Where are taxi drivers supposed to park in Bethlehem if everywhere is banned and how can we work and pick up people? I want to work, I want to feed my family, even if I already paid 39 tickets I still don’t care until they change the laws,” he said.
“We were promised by the Bethlehem governor, municipality and traffic police that this situation of parking in streets will be solved and until the moment we are given tickets and banned from parking,” he added.
A Bethlehem police spokesman told Ma'an that the police officer told the driver not to park, and that if he parks he will give him a ticket. But he wasn't given a traffic ticket, police said.
Samer Salahat, another taxi driver from the Bethlehem area, told Ma’an that “This is not Ashraf’s problem only, it is our case too because we as Bethlehem taxi drivers are opposing new regulations and we can’t work like that.
“I was there when Ashraf was given the ticket and he told the police officer, 'I want to set fire to myself,' and the officers told him, 'OK, burn yourself, that is not my issue.'”
The coordinator of Bethlehem traffic police Saleh Soboh told Ma’an: ”We at the Bethlehem committee decided to ban buses and taxis from parking in front of stores to pick up people. There will be special places for taxis and buses taking tourists and not in the middle of streets because this issue is causing traffic in Bethlehem.”
He added that they banned hotels from allowing the buses to park in front of the hotels because the roads are for all people and not taken by the hotels and buses.
This campaign will last until the traffic problem is solved, added Soboh. He pointed out that they also banned stores from displaying goods on the street because were being prevented from walking.
Taxi drivers used to pick up people coming from Jerusalem at the Bab al-Zqaq road near Beit Jala. This was moved to a wider place because it used to make traffic and residents complained to the municipality.
Soboh added that each taxi should park in front of the taxi office he is working for and not in streets.
He mentioned that taxi office owners will lose their permit if they don’t gather their taxis and park in a special place allowed for them in front of each office.