For the fourth consecutive week, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have continued bulldozing activities and uprooting dozens of fruitful trees in al-Walaja village, northwest of Bethlehem to construct a new part of the annexation wall in preparation for the isolation of al-Walaja village from Bethlehem and the annexation of this villages’ lands under the management of Jerusalem Municipality. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns these bulldozing activities and recalls the Advisory Opinion issued on 09 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice, which considers the construction of the Annexation Wall inside the West Bank illegal and calls for its removal. PCHR calls upon the international community to take immediate action and compel Israel to stop the construction of the annexation wall and to destroy the parts of the wall which have already been constructed.
According to field investigations, on 03 October 2011, IOF started the implementation of bulldozing activities in farms and uprooting of trees in targeted lands in Ein al-Hadfa area, Khellet al-Samak area and Ein Jweiza area in al-Walaja village. These bulldozing activities are aimed at preparing infrastructures for the construction of a new part of the annexation wall and for the extension of a road along the annexation wall in the west and northwest of al-Walaja village. More that 90 agricultural dunums have been bulldozed since the start of the bulldozing activities. In addition, more than 230 olive trees, almond trees, grapevines, cypress trees and oak trees have been uprooted.
In this context, the PCHR fieldworker reported that IOF have bulldozed approximately across a length of 1,800 meters with widths between 20 and 30 meters. In addition, IOF have isolated other large areas in the west of al-Walaja village, including the cemetery of the village. The PCHR fieldworker also reported that these bulldozing activities coincide with the construction of the annexation wall in "al-Ntouf" and "Ras Krimzan" areas in the east of al-Walaja village. The length of this new part of the annexation wall is 2,000 meters, with widths ranging between 30 and 50 meters. This part will be connected to the new part referred to above.
Owners of the affected lands include Abdul Rahman Mohammed Salem Abu al-Tin, Issa Jaafar Hajajleh, Ahmed Abdul Rahman Dras, Ata Mohammed al-Aaraj, Ahmed Saleh Barghouth, Jamal Saleh Barghouth, Umar Issa Hajajleh, Abdullah Dawood Rabah, Abdul Qader Dawood Rabah, Khalil Ali Mohammed al-Aaraj, Umar Dawood al-Seifi, Mohammed Hassan al-Atrash, Tareq Mansour -who represents the Wahadna family by virtue of a power of attorney-, Fakhri Eid Abu Sadoud and Abdul Fattah Abed Rabbu.
The resumption of the construction works in the new part of the annexation wall has been based on a decision issued on 23 August 2011 by the Israeli High Court which rejected a petition filed by residents of al-Walaja village requiring a change of the route of the said part of the annexation wall. In its reasoning of the rejection of the petition, the Israeli High Court stated: "the route of the wall is necessary for the security of Israel and its citizens." The Court disregarded the theft of Palestinians' lands and the resulting negative impact on the residents of al-Walaja village and their livelihoods.
According to investigations conducted by PCHR, since 2009 the length of the parts of the annexation wall which have been constructed in the east, west and northeast of al-Walaja village reached 4,500 meters, with widths ranging between 20 and 50 meters. As a result, 2,100 trees, including 1,000 olive, grape and almond trees, have been uprooted and 500 dunums of agricultural lands and forests and a part of a nature reserve have been destroyed. Besides, approximately 2,000 dunums in al-Walaja village were isolated behind the wall.
The wall's design plan published by the Israeli Ministry of Defense on its website on 30 April 2007 shows that the construction of the annexation wall would isolate al-Walaja village by surrounding it from the northern, eastern and western sides by the wall. From the south, the village will be enclosed by a security street controlled by IOF and extending along bypass road no. 436, which is used by the residents of al-Walaja village to reach services in Bethlehem. Once it is completed, the wall will isolate over 50% of the total area of the village.
According to investigations conducted by PCHR and based on the Israeli military order no. (T/25/06) which was issued in 2006, IOF have been erecting a new crossing in the annexation wall in the east of al-Walaja village. This crossing is named "Har Gilo". Eventually, the wall will completely isolate the village from all of the other Palestinian villages and towns, service providing institutions, and vital areas in the Bethlehem governorate.
PCHR condemns the said bulldozing activities carried out by IOF in al-Walaja village for the construction of a new part of the annexation wall, and:
Stresses that the construction of the annexation wall is a form of settlement, which is considered a war crime under the international law;
Notes that Israel's non-compliance with the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice constitutes the highest level of disregard for international law;
Notes that the fact that the international community does not take any serious or immediate action to put an end to all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) reflects the failure of international institutions, which allows Israel to continue committing its crimes against the Palestinian civilians and their property without holding perpetrators accountable .