Over 25% of Sheikh Sa'ad Residents Forced to Leave Homes  

In a new report, B'Tselem describes the isolation of the village of Sheikh Sa'ad from Jerusalem and the West Bank, and the consequences for the residents if the Separation Barrier is built according to current plans. For those remaining in the village, the Separation Barrier will effectively constitute an expulsion order.

The village of Sheikh Sa'ad is part of the contiguous urban area of East Jerusalem. The village is not connected to the rest of the West Bank, and is only accessible through Jabal Mukaber, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem. In September 2002, the IDF blocked the only road leading to the village with piles of dirt and concrete blocks. Since then, it has been impossible to enter or leave the village by vehicle. Most of the residents of the village do not have Jerusalem IDs, and must get a permit to leave the village on foot. Most of the requests for permits are denied.

Since the roadblock was set up, more than 25 percent of the residents were forced to leave their homes in the village. The planned route of the Separation Barrier in the area will block the only road leading to the village with a wall. The building of the wall will force the residents to choose between living as prisoners in their village or leaving their homes.

The result of the route of the Separation Barrier as approved by the Israeli government is to isolate villages from the rest of the West Bank, cut farmers off from their land, and prevent Palestinians living along the route of the barrier from leading a normal life. For a year and a half, B'Tselem has warned about the violations of human rights and international law resulting from the construction of the Separation Barrier along the route as currently planned. Had the government addressed B'Tselem's concerns, Israel might have avoided the current involvement of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

In the Sheikh Sa'ad area, the government still has time to change its decision and prevent the village from being cut off from the rest of East Jerusalem. In doing so, the government would prevent unnecessary suffering of Palestinian residents of the area, avoid the expense of having to move the barrier in the future, and reduce international criticism.

B'Tselem demands that the Israeli government immediately remove the siege on the village of Sheikh Sa'ad and enable its residents to enter East Jerusalem, and refrain from building a physical barrier that will separate the village from East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank.

Sheikh Sa'ad
A choice between living as prisoners or leaving. Houses in the village of Sheikh Sa'ad. Photo: B'Tselem

Full report - RTF
   Israel Modifies Route of the Separation Barrier  

Last week, the International Court of Justice in The Hague held three days of hearings relating to the Separation Barrier Israel is building in the West Bank. The day before the hearings began, the IDF started to tear down a section of the barrier east of Baqa a-Sharqiya, in the northern part of the West Bank. This was after another barrier had been built to the west of the town, along the Green Line.

In recent months, the media have reported that the defense establishment decided to make changes in the barrier's route in various sections. For example, it was reported that the section that cuts off 3,200 residents of Barta'a a-Sharqiya from Jenin, the nearby city, will be moved westward and will run along the Green Line. It was also reported that Israel would tear down about one kilometer of the eastern section of the barrier that surrounds Qalqiliya and turns it into an isolated enclave.

However, most of the route remains as it originally was approved by the government. This route will cut off thousands of farmers from their farmland, and surround many villages by a fence, with only a narrow opening linking them to rest of the West Bank.

The changes in the barrier's route are apparently a result of the harsh criticism against Israel for the human rights violations that would come from building the barrier along the route approved by the government. This criticism will continue so long as the route veers into the West Bank. Israel's willingness to change the route in some locations once again illustrates that despite the government's declarations, the route of the barrier was not determined on the basis of security considerations. However, other than the change in the area of Baqa a-Sharqiya, it is unclear which of the changes will in fact be implemented, as the government has not published an official decision.

Separation Barrier
A locked gate in the section of the barrier being torn down near Baqa a-Sharqiya. Photo: B'Tselem

   Border Police Officers Abuse Palestinian Laborers for 3 Hours  

On the evening of 8 February 2004, Border Police officers broke into a building in Jerusalem in which five Palestinians from Kharas, a village in the West Bank, were staying while they worked in the city. After taking the construction workers out of the room and confiscating their documents, one of the police officers ordered the Palestinians to give him their wallets. Subsequently, the officers called two workers over and beat them. Among other things, the officers banged the men's heads against the wall.

The officers put the five Palestinians into a jeep. After driving for several minutes, during which one of the police officers beat the men with a club, the jeep stopped in a grove of trees near Beit Jala. The police officers then dropped off each of the workers in a different location and left them there after beating them severely.

Muhammad 'Attawneh, one of the victims told B'Tselem: “The driver yanked open the door of the jeep. It hit me in the face… Two police officers got out, kicked me and hit me with the butts of their guns. I screamed and cried out for help. They knocked me down and continued to beat me all over my body and face. They stood me by a rock and banged my head against it. The blond officer grabbed me from behind, and the driver kicked me in the face a few times. My mouth started bleeding. Then, the female police officer got out and beat me with a club on the head and ears. Every once in a while, one of them would kick me in the groin. I fell down several times, and each time, they picked me up and continued beating me…”

After the police officers left, the workers found each other and managed to get to a hospital in Beit Jala, where they were treated. They later learned that several cell phones, a wallet, money, and cigarettes were missing from the building where they had stayed.

The Department for the Investigation of Police opened an investigation into the incident.

Muhammad Attawneh
Jihad Halahleh after being beaten by Border Police officers. Photo: B'Tselem

Testimony of Muhammad 'Attawneh
Testimony of Nihad Halahleh