OPT: East Jerusalem suburbs expect the worst as separation barrier erected
AL-AZARIYA, West Bank, Dec 10 (AFP) - Tens of thousands of West Bank Palestinians in eastern Jerusalem suburbs are awaiting disaster, as Israel continues to build a separation barrier that will cut them off from the Holy City and slice through their villages.
"The wall will restrict the people's movement and will have a psychological and social impact on them. It will spawn poverty and unemployment," said Mohammed Abu Daamus, spokesman for the local council of Al-Azariya, a village of 30,000 inhabitants east of Jerusalem.
This locality, as well as Abu Dis, Jebel Mukaber, Sawahreh, Tsur Baher and Sheikh Saad, will end up to the east of the wall the Israeli government is building around the annexed Arab sector of Jerusalem.
Large numbers of residents of these villages hold the Israeli ID card delivered to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.
"This wall will have catastrophic repercussions. It will transform our towns and villages into large barricaded prisons," Abu Daamus told AFP.
Once the construction is completed in Al-Azariya, the barrier will be four kilometres (2.5 miles) long and will annex 500 acres (202 hectares) of Palestinian land to the nearby Jewish settlement of Maaleh Adumim, the spokesman said.
The local council lodged a complaint with Israel's Supreme Court demanding a halt to the construction of what Palestinians have coined "the Apartheid Wall," Abu Daamus said.
He pointed out that some 50 families will be cut off from the rest of the town by the "wall", which snakes through the densely populated suburbs of east Jerusalem as part of Israel's barrier to separate the West Bank from Israel.
Israel argues that the barrier is vital for security, but the Palestinians describe it as a form of ethnic cleansing, aimed at grabbing fertile land in the West Bank and pre-empting the borders of their future state.
According to a report published by international institutions donating money to the Palestinians, the construction of the barrier in the Jerusalem district will trigger significant population movements.
The report also warned that "communities adjacent to Jerusalem will be separated from the town on which they depend for trade, employment and basic social services," such as medical treatment and education.
"The fence will prevent the children from going to school, women from going to modern hospitals, workers to reach their jobs and will make access to cemeteries impossible," the document said.
The report said 85,000 Palestinians will be affected by the section of the barrier already erected around Jerusalem and that the completion of another 18 kilometres (12 miles) will affect the daily lives of another 35,000 people.
In Abu Dis, the Israeli army has cut the main thoroughfare linking the town of east Jerusalem with three-metre-tall concrete blocks while workers are putting the final touches to the barrier.
"They have surrounded our field with barbed wire and a high fence," said Umm Ahmad Halibiya, a 35-year-old Palestinians woman.
"We are growing vegetables in this field but they confiscated it by leaving it on the either side of the wall after uprooting olive trees. This is a crime," she said.
According to Aziz Allan, a researcher at the farming assistance association, the residents of these eastern Jerusalem suburbs could also end up being severed from the rest of the West Bank if Israel decided to close the main road to the large urban settlement of Maaleh Adumim.
"Al-Azariya, Abu Dis and Sawahreh would then become isolated enclaves," he warned.
Copyright (c) 2003 Agence France-Presse
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 12/10/2003 08:48:43
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