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Netanyahu visits construction site of new separation barrier in Hebron

July 20, 2016 9:16 P.M. (Updated: July 23, 2016 4:35 P.M.)
An Israeli excavator uproots olive trees to make way for Israel's controversial separation barrier, in the West Bank town of Beit Jala on August 17, 2015 � AFP/File Musa al-Shaer
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli authorities have launched a construction project to build a new separation barrier in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu toured the project on Wednesday, stating that the barrier would protect Israel from “illegal residents” and Palestinian “attackers,” according to Israeli media.

The 42-kilometer security barrier will extend from the illegal Israeli settlement of Meitar in the south to the Palestinian village of Tarqumiya in the western part of Hebron, according to Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post. The project is expected to take a year to complete.

The new security barrier will reportedly replace a security fence which was constructed in the area over the last decade.

Netanyahu visited the project with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, among others, and announced that the security barrier would prevent the entrance of “illegal residents” and Palestinian “attackers” into Israel.

Netanyahu also vowed to crack down on undocumented workers in Israel, while threatening harsh consequences for Israeli employers who hire undocumented labor.

Israel has already been a target of international condemnation for the construction of the separation wall, which the International Court of Justice declared illegal in 2004.

While Israel maintains that the wall is necessary for the security of Israeli citizens, Palestinians and rights groups have instead pointed out that the wall consumes large tracts of Palestinian land -- 85 percent of the constructed wall has been built inside Palestinian territory, leaving Palestinian neighborhoods stranded on both sides of the barrier, and isolating communities from their agricultural lands.

In the wake of a series of attacks on Israelis by Hebron district residents, Israeli authorities enacted numerous punitive measures which rights groups have claimed amount to “collective punishment,” including continuing the Israeli military closure of the entire district of Hebron for nearly three weeks and revoking thousands of Israeli permits for Palestinians in the area who are dependent on entering Israel for work.

Rights groups have also pointed out that such punitive measures exacerbate tensions in the occupied Palestinian territory, where Palestinians suffer from widespread unemployment, nightly search and detention raids carried out by Israeli forces which often erupt into violence, and severe restrictions on movement as a result of Israel’s nearly 50-year military occupation.
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