'Security barrier remains unfinished'

Eight years on, Defense Ministry sees no end in sight.

July 8, 2010 05:49
4 minute read.
'Security barrier remains unfinished'

security fence 298. (photo credit: )


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Eight years after it was begun, only 64 percent of the West Bank security barrier has been completed, according to numbers provided to The Jerusalem Post by the Defense Ministry on Wednesday.

In the last three years very little progress has been made toward the barrier’s completion – even though at one point, 2010 was the target year.

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There is currently no date set by which the it is expected to be finished.

The barrier has inched forward by 70 km. since July 2007. At present, according to the Defense Ministry, 520 km. of the 810-km. route have been finished.

Last year at this time, the ministry said that 490 km. were finished. In 2007, it told the Post that 450 km. had been completed.

According to a Defense Ministry spokesman, the bulk of the work in the past year has focused on changes to already finished portions of the structure mandated by the High Court of Justice.

Additionally, work has been done to close holes in the fence in the Jerusalem area. The unfinished portions of the barrier are in four areas: Ma’aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion, Ariel and a section by the Dead Sea.

The spokesman said sections of the barrier that are most important for security have been completed.

The Defense Ministry numbers varied somewhat from those provided on Wednesday by the United Nations. It published an 18-page report on the barrier in advance of the July 9 anniversary of the 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice at The Hague, which said it was illegal for Israel to build a barrier in the West Bank.

According to the UN, 85% of the barrier’s route is located in the West Bank and only 15% is on the pre-1967 Green Line. Once completed, 9.4% of West Bank land will be on the “Israeli side” of the barrier, according to the UN.

For the third year in a row, the report has noted that progress on the barrier has been minimal.

According to the UN, work on new sections of the barrier has “almost completely halted.”

Completely new construction has occurred mostly in the Gush Etzion area just south of Jerusalem, and in east Jerusalem.

According to the UN report, 61.4% of the barrier is completed, 8.4% is under construction, and 30.1% is planned, but not built.

In the last year, Palestinians have continued to protest against the barrier in villages such as Bil’in and Ni’lin in the area of Modi’in Illit, and in Gush Etzion.

“Such protests often evolve into violent confrontations with Israeli forces and account, on average, for approximately 20% of the injuries recorded in the West Bank, in the period of July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010,” the UN report stated.

It added that, in the past year, “the Israeli authorities have intensified their campaign against these protests, employing night raids to detain organizers and prominent activists, and undercover units to arrest protesters during weekly demonstrations.”

But the bulk of the UN report focused on access issues, both for farmers who need to cross the barrier to reach their land, and for patients and staff who want to reach the hospitals in east Jerusalem that are located on the Israeli side of the barrier.

“There are 57 gates in the barrier which open on a daily seasonal or seasonal-weekly basis,” according to the report.

But the hours of operation, “are insufficient to allow farmers to carry out essential year-round agricultural activities, such as ploughing, pruning, fertilizing and pest and weed management, the report said.

It said that the number of permits issued to Palestinian farmers to access their farmland decreased in the northern West Bank from 2006 to mid-2009, but it did not provide data to back up the claim.

The Defense Ministry spokesman, however, said it was true that the number of permits had been reduced. He explained that the IDF has found that not all Palestinians sought permits for farming purposes, and some instead made use of them to enter Israel to work.

With respect to access to east Jerusalem hospitals, the report said ambulances and patients were frequently delayed at IDF checkpoints.

In 2009, the report stated, the Palestine Red Crescent Society recorded 440 delays and denials of ambulances throughout the West Bank, two-thirds of which occurred at barrier checkpoints into Jerusalem. Restrictions have also been put in place that limit staff access, said the report.

The Defense Ministry said that every effort had been made to allow access to the hospitals, and that Palestinians could often seek the same services in Ramallah and other areas of the West Bank.

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