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From the field

30 April 2006 : Southern Hebron hills: Israel reinstates the cancelled barrier route "through the back door"

The army has recently issued new orders requisitioning land in the southern Hebron hills along Route 317 and a short section of Route 60. On this land Israel is now building a 41 kilometer-long concrete barricade between the settlements Tene, on the west, and Carmel, on the east. The barricade, 82 centimeters high, blocks the passage of vehicles from one side to the other. Thirteen crossing points will be set up along the barricade for Palestinian use.

The army contends that the barrier is being built to safeguard the access roads to the settlements that lie north of the separation barrier, and to facilitate control of the area by the security forces.

When completed, the barricade will further isolate the more than 3,000 Palestinians living in 18 cave-villages southeast of Route 317, who are dependent for basic supplies and services on the town of Yatta , which is located on the other side of the planned barricade. The barricade will also limit access of many farmers from Yatta and nearby villages to their farmland southeast of Route 317.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel filed a petition to the Israeli High Court against the barricade.

Since 1967, every Israeli government has treated the southern Hebron hills as territory it intends to annex at some time in the future. Over the years, Israel established seven settlements in this area, and encourages their expansion. These settlements now have 3,200 residents. In addition, since 1999, Israel has been working to expel Palestinians living southeast of Route 317, citing urgent military need.

The concrete barricade. Photo: The Association for Civil Rights in Israel , Feb. 2006.

In October 2003, the government approved the complete route of the separation barrier. In the south, the route was set 5-8 kilometers from the Green Line, isolating some 170,00 dunams from the rest of the West Bank on the "Israeli" side. However, in February 2005, following a High Court of Justice ruling, the government amended the barrier's route in the area to run largely along the Green Line.

The new decision to build a barricade along Route 317 reinstitutes the original route "through the back door." On the one hand, Israel takes pride in the fact that it moved the barrier's route to the Green Line out of concern for the Palestinians' welfare. At the same time, Israel continues to develop the settlements and its plan to annex them.