EU ‘deeply concerned’ by new phase of West Bank barrier
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EU ‘deeply concerned’ by new phase of West Bank barrier

European body says security fence 'will severely restrict access of almost 60 Palestinian families to their agricultural land'

A new section of Israel's security barrier in the Cremisan Valley, adjacent to the Christian Palestinian town of Beit Jala, in the West Bank, on April 7, 2016. (AFP/Thomas Coex)
A new section of Israel's security barrier in the Cremisan Valley, adjacent to the Christian Palestinian town of Beit Jala, in the West Bank, on April 7, 2016. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

The European Union said Friday that it was “deeply concerned” by Israel’s construction of a new part of its West Bank security barrier.

Cranes last week began erecting the fence south of Jerusalem in the Cremisan Valley, adjacent to the West Bank town of Beit Jala, after a nine-year legal battle.

The EU said in a statement it was “deeply concerned at the relaunch of works for the construction of the separation barrier in the Cremisan Valley.”

It added: “Once built, the barrier will severely restrict access of almost 60 Palestinian families to their agricultural land and profoundly affect their livelihoods.”

Residents of the Christian village of Beit Jala fear the construction may lead to the expansion of the nearby Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo and the settlement of Har Gilo.

The Beit Jala’ Roman Catholic parish priest leads a mass to protest against Israel's decision to build a new section of the security fence through the Cremisan valley on January 24, 2014 (photo credit: Musa al-Shaer/AFP)
The Beit Jala’ Roman Catholic parish priest leads a mass to protest against Israel’s decision to build a new section of the security fence through the Cremisan valley on January 24, 2014 (Musa al-Shaer/AFP)

They have sought to campaign against it, but Israel’s High Court ruled in July 2015 that the barrier was legitimate and allowed construction to resume.

Israel began building the barrier of walls and fences along the border with and inside the West Bank in 2002, at the height of the Second Intifada, saying it was crucial for stopping the swarm of suicide bombers and other terrorists who claimed hundreds of Israeli lives. The Palestinians, however, call it a land grab aimed at stealing part of their future state.

The barrier is a network of fences, concrete walls, trenches and closed military roads that will extend 712 kilometers (442 miles) when finished, separating the West Bank from Israel, taking in an estimated 7 percent of the West Bank. The original route, which took in about 15 percent of the West Bank, has gradually been moved closer to the pre-1967 lines, amid an ongoing series of petitions to Israel’s High Court of Justice.

Where it approaches Beit Jala and the adjacent Cremisan Valley there has been fierce opposition from the local Christian community, which has enlisted papal support.

The case grabbed special attention when a section of barrier was slated to separate the Cremisan monastery from the neighboring convent and vineyards. It would have also separated Palestinians in the nearby Beit Jala from their olive groves.

The High Court ruled in April 2015 that the work must stop and told the government to consider alternative routes. But the new court decision on July 6 said work could go ahead, ruling that the previous ban referred only to an area of a few hundred meters alongside the monastery and the convent.

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