The Israeli Wall in the occupied West Bank has reduced access for thousands of Palestinians living in communities located behind the barrier to workplaces and essential services, a UN report claims.
Around 7,500 Palestinians reside in areas between the 1949 Armistice (Green) Line and the Wall in the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem. Israeli policies mean that they require special permits to continue living in their own homes; another 23,000 will be isolated if the Wall is completed as planned.
According to the report issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in occupied Palestinian territory (OCHA), Palestinians with West Bank ID cards who are granted special permits can only enter East Jerusalem through four of the 14 checkpoints around the city.
“Access to agricultural land through the Barrier is channelled through 80 gates,” the report mentioned. “The majority of these gates only open during the six weeks olive harvest season and usually only for a limited period during the day.”
According to the UN body, “There are about 150 Palestinian communities which have part of their land isolated by the (Wall) and must obtain ‘visitors’ permits or perform ‘prior coordination’ to access this area.”
During the 2011 olive harvest, the report notes, about 42 per cent of applications submitted for permits to access areas behind the Barrier were rejected citing “security reasons” or lack of “connection to the land”.
The Barrier, known almost universally as the Apartheid Wall, consists of “concrete, fences, ditches, razor wire, groomed sand paths, an electronic monitoring system, patrol roads, and a buffer zone”.
The Wall’s total length is approximately 708 km, more than twice the length of the 1949 Armistice Line, which separates Israel from the occupied West Bank. It has transformed the geography, economy and social life of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, as well as the life of those residing in the wider metropolitan area. Neighbourhoods, suburbs and families have been divided from each other and walled out from the urban centre, and rural communities are separated from their land in the Jerusalem hinterland.
The report mentions that “approximately 62.1 per cent of the Barrier is complete, a further 8 per cent is under construction and 29.9 per cent is planned but not yet constructed”. When completed, some 85 per cent of the route will run inside the West Bank, rather than along the Green Line, isolating some 9.4 per cent of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
The Wall bites so deep into occupied Palestinian territory that “seventy one of the 150 Israeli settlements in the West Bank and over 85 per cent of the total settler population are located on the Israeli side of the Wall’s route”.
The UN Register of Damage (UNRoD) has to date collected over 26,000 claims for material damage caused by the construction of the Barrier in the northern West Bank.
In 2004, the International Court of Justice declared that the sections of the Wall which run inside the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, together with the associated gate and permit regime, violate Israel’s obligations under international law. The ICJ called on Israel to cease construction of the Wall inside the West Bank; dismantle the sections already completed; and repeal all related legislative measures.