The wall has dispossessed many Palestinian villagers
Settlement expansion is the main motive behind the route chosen for the separation barrier in the West Bank, an Israeli human rights group and NGO have found.
An 82-page study by human rights organisation B’tselem and NGO Bimkom says only 20% of the barrier’s route run along the Green Line (the former armistice line between the West Bank and Israel).
As a result, more than 530sq km or 9.5% of the West Bank have been in effect confiscated, Palestinians say.
But Israeli officials dispute the study’s findings and insist physical separation between the West Bank and Israel is the most secure method of preventing attacks against Israel.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign minister, told Aljazeera.net: "The government of Israel disagrees with the B’tselem report. This is a security structure that has proven its effectiveness in preventing the infiltration of Palestinian terrorists into Israel."
In the middle
When completed, the total length of the barrier is expected to be 680km.
Along its route, 30,000 people in 21 Palestinian villages will be sandwiched between the wall and the 1967 border.
The barrier threatens the survival
Another 50 smaller towns and villages, with a total population of 244,000, will also be surrounded by the barrier on at least three sides as is the case with the town of Qalqilya in the north-western part of the West Bank.
The study was researched and prepared by Yehezkel Lein a field researcher and law expert for B’tselem and Alon Cohen-Lifshitz, a building and land zoning expert for Bimkom who toured the route of the separation barrier from its northernmost section near Jenin to its southernmost section near Dhairiya, southwest of Hebron.
Lein and Cohen-Lifshitz found numerous Palestinian villagers and farmers who lost their farms and land to the barrier.
They also reported that thousands of Palestinian families living on the eastern side of the barrier were cut off from their farmland on the western side, thereby threatening their survival and paralysing family ties.
However, Regev, the foreign minister’s spokesman, said: "We saw to it that the inconvenience incurred by Palestinians as a result of the construction of the separation wall would be as minimal as possible."
The route of the barrier, when completed, will also leave 55 Jewish settlements, including 12 in East Jerusalem, on the western side of the wall.
Israel has not yet publicly said whether the barrier will encompass some of the settlements built deep into the West Bank such as Ma’ali Adomim, east of Jerusalem, and Ariel, southwest of Nablus.
However, the study quotes Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli prime minister in a coma since January 4, as saying that "all settlements west of the barrier will be annexed".
Moreover, the authors of the study accused Israeli officials of deliberately using "evasive and vague language" with regard to the barrier.
They accused the Civil Administration, an extension of the Israeli occupation army, of deceiving Palestinians who have property on the "Israeli side" of the barrier.
Initially, Israeli officials said Palestinian landowners on the eastern side of the wall would have unfettered access to their property and farms on the barrier’s western side.
However, many of these Palestinians have actually been denied permits to access their land without any explanation.
The study noted that Civil Administration officials denied requests on the grounds that some applicants had been considered "security threats" by the Shin Beth, Israel’s main domestic security service.
"Very often, notice of rejection is given only verbally, with no more than an explanation that the request is denied for security reasons or for failure to prove rights to the land," the study said.
Normally, applicants denied access to their property and farms receive no compensation for their losses. Eventually, the land would acquire the status of "absentee land".
Israeli government officials told Aljazeera.net that the separation wall would not affect final status talks with the Palestinians if and when such talks took place.
Meanwhile on Friday, Jewish settlers opposed to Israel’s plans to withdraw from some occupied West Bank land moved to expand an enclave.
Using crowbars and a hammer, the group broke into a Palestinian home in Hebron in the early hours of Friday.
After taking possession of the building, the settlers could be seen hurling furniture into the street.
A Palestinian security source and a Palestinian owner both denied the building had been legally sold.
Some settlers threw stones at Palestinians at the site, witnesses said. There were no reported injuries