Israel court orders halt to Beit Jala separation wall
An Israeli court has ordered that construction be halted on an extension of Israel's separation wall in the West Bank town of Beit Jala, ending an eight year battle to prevent its construction.
The town, northwest of Bethlehem, was to have been separated from its olive groves by the proposed path of the wall, which was drawn up by the Israeli defence ministry. A Roman Catholic monastery was also to have been divided from a neighbouring convent.
The High Court ruling on Thursday said that the route must be reviewed before any further building can take place. Future routes can also be challenged in court
Imad Nassar, the coordinator of the popular committee against the wall and settlement activity in Beit Jala, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the court ruling came after pressure from the Vatican, as well as other Christian organisations.
Demonstrations had also regularly been held on Fridays and Saturdays near land confiscated by the authorities for the wall.
Nassar added that the Popular Resistance Committees would fight any new route proposed, saying that the aim of the wall was to restrict the life of Palestinians and confiscate their land.
The Society of St Yves, which represents the Salesian convent, said that the initial plan for the wall was designed to cause problems for local Palestinians.
"The planned route was designed to confiscate a huge share of the privately owned lands of the people of Beit Jala in Cremisan as well as Vatican church land," it said.
It added that the military would need to issue a new order for any future plans to build the wall in the area, and that a new appeal.
In its decision, the court said that the new route should be one which creates less upheaval for residents.
"The respondents should re-examine, as swiftly as possible, various alternatives to the route of the separation fence," the court ruling said.
Israel began building a series of walls around the West Bank in 2002, despite international condemnation. Israel argues that the walls are necessary for its protection, but Palestinians say that it is a land grab aimed at stealing part of their future state.
The proposal to build a wall around Beit Jala, which lies close to the Israeli West Bank settlement of Gilo, illegal under international law, was first made in 2006.