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Court rejects Palestinian bid on Jerusalem barrier

Aug. 23, 2011 5:07 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 25, 2011 2:22 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- An Israeli rights group criticized 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 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 said. "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.

Palestinian lawyer Farid Al-Atrash, director of the Independent Commission for Human Rights in the West Bank, told Ma’an the court was biased toward Israel and unfair to Palestinians.

"Israeli measures in building the wall are contrary to the decision of the International Court in the Hague, which confirmed the illegitimacy of the wall on the Palestinian lands which were occupied in 1967," he said.

Al-Atrash added that “we reject this decision as it is arbitrary, we should resist it.”

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-kilometer barrier is complete, 85 percent of it will have been built inside the occupied West Bank.

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

Ma'an staff in Bethlehem contributed reporting.
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