Israel says the West Bank barrier is designed to prevent attacks
Israeli soldiers stand next to a Palestinian woman protesting against Israel's controversial separation barrier in the West Bank village of Al-Walaja, near the biblical town of Bethlehem. An Israeli rights group has criticised a court decision upholding the route of Israel's West Bank barrier, which cuts off a Palestinian village from its land in an area between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. © Musa al-Shaer - AFP/File
Israel says the West Bank barrier is designed to prevent attacks
AFP
Last updated: August 23, 2011

Court nixes Palestinian bid on Jerusalem fence route

An Israeli rights group criticised on Tuesday a court decision upholding the route of Israel's West Bank barrier, which cuts off a Palestinian village from its land in an area between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Residents of Al-Walaja had appealed to Israel's Supreme Court to reroute a portion of the barrier which they say cuts off the village of 2,500 from farming land, a cemetery and a nearby spring.

The village straddles the border between east Jerusalem and the West Bank, with a third of its land falling within the Israeli-annexed sector.

But Israel's Supreme Court rejected the petition on Monday, saying security concerns outweighed the disturbance to their lives.

Ir Amim, an NGO which lobbies for Palestinians and Israelis to share Jerusalem, said the villagers had been placed in an impossible situation by Israel.

"The court verdict does not address the question of Walaja because Israel is condemned to rule Walaja unwisely and unfairly," said Daniel Seidemann, a founder of Ir Amim.

"We have no business ruling it in the first place," he told AFP. "We do not provide them services, do not allow them access to the West Bank, do not allow them access to Israel."

Chief Justice Dorit Beinish wrote in her decision the barrier in Walaja was "one of the last sections" around Jerusalem that still needed completion.

"The geographical proximity between these territories and the Jerusalem municipal area has over the years transformed it into a preferred target destination for terrorists operating in the area who wish to infiltrate the city limits," she wrote.

Moving the barrier could also pose a potential threat to passengers on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem railway, which runs nearby, she said.

Israel says the barrier is designed to prevent attacks, but the Palestinians view it as an "apartheid wall" that carves off key parts of their promised state.

When the 709-kilometre (435-mile) barrier is complete, 85 percent of it will have been built inside the occupied West Bank.

In a non-binding 2004 judgement, the International Court of Justice called for the dismantling of all parts of the separation barrier built on occupied territory.

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