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Israel adds another 100km of concrete to illegal separation wall

Jerusalem24 – Yara Alnazer – Israel has begun work on a new 100km stretch of concrete to replace the current separation fence it installed surrounding the occupied West Bank.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz approved in November plans to expand the separation wall by 50km, in addition to 50km which were approved earlier this year and for which construction began in June, stretching from Salem near Jenin at the northern tip of the West Bank until the Jabara checkpoint south of Tulkarem.

The new construction will now link to the concrete wall under construction in Jabara and will stretch north towards the Palestinian town of Kafr Qasim inside Israel.

Separately, Israel has also started dismantling the shuttered Al-Muntar commercial crossing in the fence surrounding Gaza, and will erect another section of concrete in its place.

Controlling more land

The 100km concrete section will more than double the existing 70km section of 8m-high walls.

A 2004 opinion by the International Court of Justice ruled the wall illegal under international law and called for Israel to dismantle it. Around 500km of the wall’s planned 712km have been constructed so far.

Israel says the wall, which has been under construction since 2002, was necessary to stop a string of suicide attacks inside Israel during the Second Intifada.

But according to the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission, “the wall actually aims at controlling the land and annexing large parts of the West Bank”. About 80% of the separation wall runs within the West Bank, and if construction is completed across the planned route, around 9.4% of the West Bank will be cut off and effectively annexed to Israel. By 2013, around 11,000 West Bank Palestinians living in areas cut off by the wall depended on the granting of permits by Israel or special arrangements to live in their own homes.

The West Bank city of Bethlehem behind a section of Israel’s separation wall is seen from Jerusalem. [Credit: Oded Balilty/AP] 
Gantz claims the latest concrete addition will strengthen Israel’s security and “provide a solution to a variety of risks” following several attacks inside Israel by West Bank Palestinians earlier this year which left over a dozen Israelis dead.

“Informal checkpoints”

An estimated 100,000 West Bank Palestinians without work permits comprise the labor force inside Israel, in addition to around 130,000 with permits.

West Bank laborers without permits often cross from several well-known breaches in the separation wall. The Israeli military is aware of the breaches and the workers are usually allowed to pass through without restrictions, and impromptu, lucrative businesses have even developed alongside the breach areas, such as coffee, food, and cigarette stalls.

A vendor sells goods to Palestinian laborers as they cross Israel back to the West Bank at the end of the working day, next to a section of Israel’s separation wall. [Credit: Oded Balilty/AP]
But among the tens of thousands of laborers who make the crossing on a daily basis, some can be detained, shot, beaten, or injured for no specified reason, and three have been shot and killed this year.

According to Israeli Affairs analyst Ismat Mansour, Israeli authorities must engage in a balancing act, catering to Israeli public fears of Palestinian “infiltration” without compromising access to the informal Palestinian labor force on which the Israeli economy depends.

“This is the dilemma they are facing. On the one hand, they are interested in retaining the Palestinian laborers, whether the ones with a permit or the ones who enter through those gaps within the wall,” Mansour tells Jerusalem24. “[But] when the attacks occurred, the Israeli public fussed about these gaps being left unattended and ripe for exploitation rather than being sealed.”

But while part of the reason for the current concrete construction is propaganda aimed at the Israeli public, says Mansour, there is also an attempt on the part of Israeli authorities to reduce the breaches to areas that can be controlled.

“They only want a few gaps to be available and they want a sort of supervision and control, even if it is in an invisible way.”

“There are indeed illegal gaps – but they will be monitored, and the Israelis will be able to control them and close them down when they want and be able to know who enters and who doesn’t. These gaps will become sort of informal checkpoints.”

Metal sheets attached to a repaired section of the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank village of Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem. [Credit: Oded Balilty/AP]
A Palestinian man crosses into Israel from the West Bank through an opening in the Israeli separation fence in the southern West Bank. [Credit: Oded Balilty/AP]

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