(photo credit: Rafael D Frankel)
Large segments of the security fence around Route 443 in the vicinity of Beit Horon and A-Tira are not finished, even though the deadline for their completion given by the Defense Ministry official in charge of planning the fence's route and overseeing its construction has passed.
In a February 2 interview with The Jerusalem Post, Col. (res.) Danny Tirza said that except for stretches around Ariel, Jerusalem, Ma'aleh Adumim and the far south, the security fence would be complete by the end of March.
At the time, Tirza said the only other exceptions would be sections where legal injunctions prevented construction or small areas where logistics were a problem. However a visual inspection of the fence in areas between Modi'in and Beit Horon around the three areas on Thursday revealed large swaths that remained incomplete.
"The plan for defense of Route 443 still has not received permission from the courts, and after that we have to get the permission from the government," Defense Ministry Spokeswoman Rachel Naidek Ashkenazi said in a statement in response to inquiries by the Post. "At this stage, all means of back-up surveillance equipment were installed over the entire area and an envelope network [security system]is in place over the entire length of the road."
However the Defense Ministry offered no explanation for why construction of the fence was not complete in the large areas observed by The Jerusalem Post, which extend away from the Jerusalem-Modi'in road, east of Modi'in.
In the hills around A-Tira, the ground was prepared for the fence and the cement foundation of it laid down. However, for as far as the eye could see over the hills to the south - where a fully completed fence and security road should stand - not even a chain link fence had risen.
When a Post reporter tried to investigate how far the incomplete segment ran, he was intercepted by private security guards who forced him to turn around. Asked when construction was set to begin on that segment of the fence, the guard said "In two or three months."
"The government's efforts are not very wholehearted about building the fence, otherwise we would see a lot more activity," said Marc Luria, the founder of Security Fence for Israel and a senior Tafnit Party member. "It could have been completed two years ago and this slow inching toward the target is unacceptable."
Around the town of Beit Horon, segments of the barrier - a wall in the sections around the town's homes -are standing, but it is also far from complete.
On Thursday, one bulldozer cleared debris from the construction site of a crossing between Beit Horon and the neighboring Palestinian town Beitru Afuka. A few construction workers sat on cement blocks watching the bulldozer but not working. Army officers on the scene refused to answer questions about when the fence there would be complete.
The large section of the fence which winds its way through the hills to the north of Beit Horon was also not complete. Though a patrol road was mostly finished and the basic fence wiring established, the full fence was not yet in place. The electronic sensors in that section were sticking out from the ground at intervals of around five meters each, as yet unattached to the fence.
The security fence is slated to cost around NIS 10 billion and run 740 kilometers around and through the West Bank. Around five percent of the barrier, mostly around urban Palestinian areas, is concrete wall.
Work on the fence originally began in 2002 after Operation Defensive Shield and proceeded rapidly, with over 150 km built in the first year before the pace slowed. In the February interview with the Post, Tirza said the fence would be 100 percent complete by the end of 2007, with the Jerusalem envelope section finished by the end of this summer.
In the four years since construction on the fence began, the Defense Ministry has continually missed deadlines for its completion. The ministry blames court injunctions for slowing the work, as well as the challenging engineering of building the fence through the many hills and gullies of the West Bank.