Israeli authorities in Jerusalem have begun construction of a new checkpoint on the edge of Al-Walaja, in what has been described as “the final step in blocking the village’s access to a national park built on land confiscated from its residents”.
According to Israeli NGO Ir Amim, the Jerusalem municipality initiated the construction on 14 February, some weeks after Mayor Nir Barkat and Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Ze’ev Elkin inaugurated the Emek Refaim National Park.
“The new checkpoint will replace the one now in operation between Al-Walaja and Gilo [settlement], bringing it directly to the edge of the village…in order to block resident’s access to 1,200 dunams of national park land between the village and the Green Line,” the NGO explains.
The park will thus “deepen the isolation of the village, already encircled by the Separation Barrier on its East Jerusalem side (half of the village lies beyond the municipal border, in the West Bank)”.
According to Ir Amim, these developments in Al-Walaja, “more than half of which is under threat of demolition, on its annexed side”, occur in “the context of a much larger campaign to consolidate the southern perimeter of East Jerusalem and fatally disrupt contiguity with the West Bank”.
To that end, Israel has “steadily promoted plans” in recent years including the expansion of Har Homa and Gilo settlements, and the approval of plans in Givat Hamatos, “which would supplant Har Homa as the newest settlement in East Jerusalem”.
The NGO also cites the “construction of the six-lane highway through residential Beit Safafa, which serves to further disrupt contiguity between East Jerusalem and the Bethlehem area while reinforcing the connection between settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem”.