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Israel begins construction of separation wall in Bethlehem-area village

Dec. 21, 2017 12:10 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 22, 2017 12:20 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities have reportedly began construction on a portion of Israel’s illegal separation wall on lands of the Tuqu town in eastern Bethlehem, in the southern occupied West Bank, on Thursday.

Locals told Ma’an that Israeli bulldozers entered the town early Thursday morning and began placing cement blocks in northern Tuqu.

According to locals, the wall would swallow up what's left of agricultural lands belonging to the residents of Tuqu, after Israel confiscated large portions of land for the construction nearby illegal settlement of Tekoa.

Israel’s separation wall, expected to reach 708 kilometers upon its completion -- 88 percent of which is planned inside occupied Palestinian territory, is a common sight in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli-installed cement walls and barrier fences zig zag throughout the landscape.

Israeli leaders often claim that the wall serves a security purpose to deter potential Palestinian attacks on Israelis. However, many activists, academics, and analysts have said that the wall is instead a massive “land grab” of large tracts of the Palestinian territory, and a strategy to consolidate Israel’s sovereignty over Area C -- the more than 60 percent of the occupied West Bank under full Israeli control -- where all of Israel’s illegal settlements are built or are in the process of being constructed.

Area C of the West Bank was expected to be gradually transferred to the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority (PA) according to the Oslo peace agreements in the 1990s. However, decades later Israel still maintains full civil and military control over the area.

Israel began building the separation wall with concrete slabs, fences, and barbed-wire inside the occupied West Bank in 2002 at the height of the Second Intifada, claiming it was crucial for security.

The ICJ issued an advisory opinion in 2004 stating that the wall was illegal under international law and its construction must stop immediately, adding that reparations should be paid to Palestinians whose properties were damaged as a result of the construction.

However, the wall’s construction has continued unabated, encroaching deep into the Palestinian territory, and leaving Palestinian neighborhoods stranded on both sides of the barrier, and isolating communities from their agricultural lands.

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