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Israel Opens High-Speed Rail Link Between Tel Aviv Airport And Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – 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 train will cut travel time between Ben-Gurion Airport and a new, 80-meter (260 foot) deep underground terminal at the entrance to Jerusalem to around 20 minutes. By road, the trip takes at least 40 minutes.

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.

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”.

On a test run last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the opening of the line was “an historic moment” heralding a “new era for Jerusalem and the state of Israel.”

Completion of electrification work and the opening of the 60-km (37-mile)-long route between the two cities has been frequently postponed. No firm inaugural date has been announced.

When completed, the train journey time between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem will take under half an hour. The drive takes at least an hour. An existing rail line built by the Ottoman Turks more than 100 years ago meanders around picturesque hills and the journey takes more than 90 minutes.

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