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Lawyer: Separation wall in Battir would have violated intl law

Jan. 5, 2015 6:31 P.M. (Updated: June 11, 2015 1:30 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian lawyer on Monday spoke to Ma'an about the legal reasons behind an Israeli Supreme Court decision to rule against building the separation wall through the village of Battir.

A local official announced Sunday that the Bethlehem-area village had won a years-long legal battle when the court ruled against an Israeli army request to build the wall through the UNESCO-recognized site.

Lawyer Ghayath Nasser told Ma'an Monday that building the wall through Battir would have violated international laws regarding the protection of nature.

He said the construction of the separation wall would lead to the destruction of a highly sensitive nature zone that was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage in Danger site in 2014.

It would also have damaged an ancient irrigation system that has been present in the village for hundreds of years, Nasser told Ma'an.

He added that according to the Israeli army plans, the wall would have cut off Battir residents from 3,000 dunams (741 acres) of their private agricultural lands -- the lands would have ended up on the Israeli side of the wall.

Nasser told Ma'an that the Israeli National Parks Authority had called for the court to rule against the suggested track of the separation wall, saying that it would have "abused the nature" of the area.

He said the Israeli army had suggested using barbed wire instead of concrete in sensitive nature zones, but that the court ruled against that option.

Battir is famous for its ancient terraces and Roman-era irrigation system which is still used by villagers for their crops.

Palestine won membership in UNESCO in October 2011 and quickly moved to submit a number of sites for recognition, including an emergency application for Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity which was approved in June the following year, despite Israeli objections.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion calling on Israel to stop building the wall and dismantle or re-route sections that had been constructed.

Israel says the wall is necessary for its security but Palestinians say it is a land grab, noting that it is not built on the Green Line and in places runs deep inside the West Bank.
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