Israel barrier threatens to split West Bank villages


The Beit Jala’s Roman Catholic parish priest leads a mass to protest against an Israeli decision to build a new section of the separation wall through the Cremisan valley on January 24, 2014 near the West Bank city of Bethlehem

Battir (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) – Israel’s separation barrier could soon destroy the livelihoods and redraw the demographics of two Palestinian villages south of Jerusalem, locals say, should an imminent court ruling approve its planned route. The barrier — in parts an eight-metre-high (25-foot) concrete wall — would cut through ancient irrigation systems relied upon by the West Bank village of Battir, separate residents of nearby Beit Jala from their olive groves and divide a local Christian community.

The Supreme Court rules on Wednesday whether to approve the defence ministry’s planned route, after a flurry of petitions by locals and activists pleading to redirect it.

The ministry insists the barrier, whose construction began in 2002 during the bloody second Palestinian intifada (uprising) and which now snakes some 440 kilometres through the West Bank, is essential for Israeli security.

But in Battir, which straddles the 1949 armistice line south of Jerusalem, the barrier threatens the livelihoods of a 5,000-strong Palestinian community that depends on a Roman-era irrigation system, residents say.

The ancient system channels water from natural springs down stone terraces and through sluice gates to water villagers’ orchards and gardens.

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