Court Orders Israel to Re-route Barrier

A demonstrator waves a Palestinian flag during a protest against Israel's controversial barrier near the West Bank village of Bilin, July 2007.

Israel's Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the government to re-route a section of its West Bank barrier at a Palestinian village at the heart of violent protests against the construction.

   The court ruled that the current route of the separation barrier in the Bilin area was "highly prejudicial" to the villagers and demanded that the government map out an alternative route "within a reasonable period".

   Palestinians have accused Israel of seizing around 200 hectares (500 acres) of land in the farming village for the barrier and said thousands of olive trees have been uprooted owing to construction work.

   In the unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel, the court said the villagers had been discriminated against by having land seized to build the barrier and trees cut down to make way for the route.

   "Furthermore, the villagers of Bilin are cut off from a large part of their farming land by the current route of the barrier," said the court.

   For more than two years, foreign peace activists, Israelis and Palestinians have demonstrated against the barrier at least once a week in Bilin, 12 kilometres (about seven miles) west of Ramallah, demonstrations that often turn violent.

   Bilin Mayor Ahmed Issa Abdallah Yassin, who brought the complaint that resulted in Tuesday's ruling, hailed the decision as a "victory."

   "We will recover a part of the lands that were confiscated by the wall," he told AFP. "We will continue our actions until the wall is eliminated."

   Israel says its massive "security" barrier, made of electric fencing, barbed wire and concrete walls, is needed to stop potential attackers from infiltrating the country and Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

   The Palestinians denounce it as an "apartheid wall" aimed at grabbing their land and undermining the viability of their promised state.

   In 2004, the International Court of Justice issued a non-binding ruling that parts of the 650-kilometre (410-mile) barrier criss-crossing the West Bank are illegal and should be torn down. Israel has vowed to complete the project.

Source: AFP

Other news