‘Illegal barriers deny access to Palestinian fields’

State responds to petition by Palestinians from Silwad, represented by Yesh Din.

By DAN IZENBERG
April 11, 2010 05:09
2 minute read.
seperation barrier 298 ap

seperation barrier 298 a. (photo credit: AP [file])

 
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The army has received complaints that many Jewish settlers have illegally built fences, ring roads and other barriers around their communities, the state informed the High Court of Justice late last week. The barriers are erected far away from the actual settlements, and prevent Palestinians from accessing their farmland.

This information was included in the state’s response to a petition filed in December by Palestinians from the Silwad village, 12 km. northeast of Ramallah. The petitioners, represented by Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights, said that settlers from Ofra had built ring roads surrounding and fencing in some 3,100 dunams (310 hectares) of farmland belonging to villagers in Silwad and nearby Ein Yabrud, making it inaccessible to them. The settlers also allegedly built other physical obstacles, including earth embankments and fences, and stationed assault dogs along a part of the barrier to prevent the farmers from cultivating their land.

Yesh Din attorneys Michael Sfard, Shlomi Zacharia and Avissar Lev demanded that the barriers be removed and that IDF soldiers be dispatched to protect the Palestinian farmers while they work.

The state asked the court to reject the petition because, based on the complaints they have received, Ofra is not the only settlement to have built such barriers.

“Recently, the civil administration, the Central Command and the legal adviser of the Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria have received many complaints... from various organizations about blocking access to private Palestinian land because of allegedly illegal fences around Jewish settlements in the Binyamin district,” wrote the state’s representative, attorney Gilad Shirman.

These complaints involve, among others, fences allegedly erected around Geva Binyamin (Adam), Beit El, Psagot, Kochav Ya’acov, Ma’aleh Michmash, Kochav Hashahar, Halamish, Almon (Anatot) and Ofra.

The state said that because there were so many complaints, the authorities decided to conduct a comprehensive examination of the phenomenon, including the mapping of all the barriers that are found to be illegal. The authorities will then decide what to do about them.

“The problem raised by the petitioners is being examined broadly by the authorities in the area, and they will conduct inspection and enforcement procedures in accordance with the results of the investigation and in accordance with their order of priorities,” Shirman wrote.

The attorney added that regarding the barriers around Ofra, the state had already found one section to be illegal and had issued orders for it to be demolished.

However, he said the authorities in the area had the discretion to determine when action would be taken to enforce these or any other orders that might be issued in the future.

On that basis, he called on the court to reject the petition.

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