Palestinian farmers work on their land in the ancient West Bank town of Battir on July 5, 2012
Palestinian farmers work on their land in the ancient West Bank town of Battir on July 5, 2012 © - AFP/File
Palestinian farmers work on their land in the ancient West Bank town of Battir on July 5, 2012
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AFP
Last updated: January 29, 2014

Israel court hears appeal against security barrier

Israel's top court was considering two Palestinian appeals on Wednesday against the planned route of its West Bank security barrier, which villagers say will cut them off from their land.

During the morning, the Supreme Court heard a case lodged by residents of Beit Jala, southwest of Jerusalem, where the barrier threatens to separate them from their olive groves and divide the local Christian community.

Later in the day, the court began hearing an appeal lodged by the residents of the nearby village of Battir, who say the barrier will destroy an ancient irrigation system that they rely on to grow crops.

Both cases were adjourned after the hearings, with no date set for a final ruling.

Residents of Beit Jala say that if the defence ministry insists on building through the middle of the Cremisan Valley, it would split the Roman Catholic Salesian order by leaving the monastery on the Israeli side and the convent in Palestinian territory.

The order runs the Cremisan valley's famous vineyards, which provide wine to churches throughout the Holy Land.

Father Ibrahim al-Shomali, parish priest of Beit Jala's Catholic church, said "we have little hope, but with diplomatic pressure and a strong local church presence we might be able to influence the court's decision."

The petition on behalf of Battir, which is seeking recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was presented by Friends of the Earth Middle East and supported by Israel's own Nature and Parks Authority.

The barrier, whose construction began in 2002 at the height of the second Palestinian uprising, stretches some 440 kilometres (273 miles) -- most of it inside the occupied West Bank.

The defence ministry insists that the barrier -- a tangle of barbed wire and, in places, an eight metre-high (25-foot) concrete wall -- is essential for Israeli security.

Only 15 percent is built along the Green Line -- the 1949 armistice line which is recognised by the international community as the border of Israel -- UN figures show, with most of it slicing through the West Bank.

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