The High Court of Justice has accepted three petitions filed by Palestinians against construction of an 82-cm. high cement barrier erected along a 41-km. stretch of road linking Jewish settlements in the South Hebron hills.
The petitions were filed by the villages of Dhahiriya, At-Tuwani, As-Samu and Yatta. The barrier, which has already been constructed and must now be removed, linked the settlements of Tene, Shama, Sussiya and Carmel. It was built parallel to and north of the segments of Highway 60 and Highway 317 that connect the settlements.
A panel of three justices headed by retired Supreme Court president Aharon Barak and including current Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and Deputy Supreme Court President Eliezer Rivlin ruled unanimously late last week that the barrier caused excessive hardship to Palestinian residents and that there were less injurious measures that could be used to achieve the goals sought by the security forces.
"The nature of the injury to the local residents is severe because of their way of life and character," wrote Barak. "Many of the local Palestinians use donkeys and other animals for transportation... The barrier also blocks passage for those walking on foot... Not every person can climb over an 82-cm. high cement barrier."
Barak also said the barrier made it difficult for Dhahiriya residents to access half of their agricultural land, located on its southern side. The barrier also blocks easy passage to residents of As-Samu to 22,000 dunams, or about 5,500 acres, of their agricultural land - 80 percent of their total land. It also interferes with access of thousands of Palestinian villagers living south of the obstacle to Palestinian towns to the north, where they receive all their essential services, Barak wrote.
The court ruled that there were less damaging ways to protect Jewish residents and visitors using the roads, such as a metal fence or a much lower concrete barrier.
The fence is designed to prevent terrorists from driving on to the highways and carrying out attacks.