Israel + 1 more

OPT: Annexation of more land in Bethlehem for apartheid wall

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Israel's military commander for the West Bank, Moshe Kaplinski on Monday (February 17) issued a military directive to annex 14 dunums of land, including 40 homes, in Bethlehem for Israel's Apartheid wall.
The lands are being seized to build an 8-meter high wall in the Bethlehem district which shall effectively annex Rachel's tomb, in Area C, to the greater Jerusalem district.

The directive (S14/2003) signed on Sunday, February 9, explains that 14 dunums of land shall be seized until December 31, 2005 for military needs, in light of the present security circumstances, and is necessary to prevent "terrorist attacks." Military orders used to illegally confiscate and annex lands can be repeatedly renewed. There is no time limit on renewals. It may be done indefinitely.

Management of the lands shall be transferred to the Lands Officer in the Central Israeli Army command.

Following the directive, LAW's lawyer Azem Bishara contacted the legal advisor's office to the Israeli Army. The office insisted that there was no intention to destroy the 40 homes built on the lands seized.

However, Mr. Bishara noted that following similar precedents in Barta'a, Nazlat Issa and other areas in the northern West Bank where the Apartheid wall has been built, "pretexts shall be found to demolish these 40 homes," said Mr. Bishara.

"The area annexed," Mr. Bishara explained, "is in Area C. Although Area C was meant to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority rule, this in reality did not occur. Rather, Israel has effectively attempted to control these areas, as if it has been granted legal autonomy over them. I expect that the so-called 'Civil Administration' shall find a way of destroying these 40 homes, most likely under the prextext of being illegally built, or lacking the appropriate permits."

"In reality, there is no security need at all to seize these lands. Rather, Israel wants to annex Rachel's tomb, rather than making an agreement with the Palestinian Authorities to ensure Israeli Jews may visit and worship in the area.

Israel's apartheid wall is expected to be completed by June 2003, and is projected to run the whole 360-km length of the West Bank. The wall, in many places 8-meters high, includes watchtowers, electric fences, trenches and security patrols.

Israel's apartheid wall shall not be built within its de-facto international borders (approximating to the 1949 Armistice line, or "Green Line"). It shall be built within the West Bank, upon seized Palestinian lands. The wall and surrounding closed military areas shall annex approximately 10% of the West Bank to Israel. Around 385,000 Palestinians shall be effectively illegally annexed to Israel, or hemmed into the wall. Palestinians unlawfully transferred to the direct control of the Israeli State will not be granted residential status or citizenship.

LAW argues that Israel's so-called "security wall" is in fact an apartheid wall. The wall will restrict Palestinian freedom of movement, Palestinian livelihoods and Palestinian access to land - a wall which divides upon ethnic, national and religious identity. The apartheid wall involves the illegal annexation of some of the most fertile lands in the West Bank and water sources, while pushing Palestinians further into Bantustans, cantons and enclaves, where Israel can ensure maximum control over Palestinian lives and land.

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory, destruction of property in occupied territories is forbidden under Article 53. It constitutes collective punishment, which is explicitly prohibited by Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. It further constitutes extra-judicial punishment and arbitrary interference with home and property.

Such extensive destruction of the private property carried out wantonly and without genuine military necessity amounts to a grave breach under article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, namely a war crime.

Illegal confiscation and annexation of land violates the general principle under international law of inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, as reaffirmed by UN Security Council Resolution 242.

LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment is a non-governmental organization dedicated to preserving human rights through legal advocacy. LAW is affiliate to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT).

LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment, PO Box 20873, Jerusalem, tel. +972-2-5833530, fax. +972-2- 5833317, law@lawsociety.org, www.lawsociety.org