4 Years on, Israeli Wall "Steals" Land
Perched on a hilltop in the northern West Bank, the town of Jayyus is surrounded on three sides by the barrier Israel is building around the occupied territory.
Farmers are allowed to get to their lands only after getting "visitors’ permits" to be let to cross through designated gates at certain hours of the day.
"The wall has transformed our life of happiness into desperation," Jayyus mayor Mohammed Taher Jaber told Reuters Tuesday, July 8.
Israel is building a 700km-long barrier that will eventually snake some 900 kilometers (540 miles) along the occupied West Bank and leave even larger swathes of its territory on the Israeli side.
In Jayyus, the barrier stands right at the town, six kilometers (3.75 miles) from the "Green Line," the armistice line drawn up after the 1948 Middle East war and now considered the West Bank’s boundary.
The wall cuts off villagers from 860 hectares (2,125 acres) of their cultivated land, including 50,000 fruit and olive trees, 70 greenhouses and six groundwater wells.
The International Court of Justice has issued in 2004 a landmark ruling branding the wall as illegal and the UN General Assembly has asked Israel to tear it down and compensate the Palestinians affected.
But Israel is defiantly pressing ahead with the construction under the pretext of protecting Jewish settlements, also considered illegal under UN resolutions.
To get to their lands, Jayyus farmers who have the required permits are only allowed to cross through designated gates at certain hours of the day.
Israel allows only those with a proven "connection to the land" through the gates; meaning that tenant farmers, landless laborers and second-degree relatives of the land’s owner are not allowed.
To make matters worse for the farmers, the gates’ limited opening hours force them to work in the heat of the day in summer and line up in the cold in winter.
If an accident happens in the field, the casualty has to wait until the scheduled opening time to seek treatment, sometimes more than four hours.
"Why do they refuse to give us permits," asked Shareef Khaleed, 65.
"So that the land gets neglected, and they can claim it after three years under absentee law."
Palestinians denounce the wall as a "land grab" which loops around Jewish settlements and slices through swathes of Palestinian farmland.
"This is not about a wall, it’s about land," Suleiman Hussein, 76, from the village of Bilin, said.
"They say it’s about security, but are my olives and goats really a security threat? They just want to steal our land."
At the village, the Israeli wall curves 3 km (2 miles) inside the Green Line.
"It makes me feel sick," Hussein said, a bulldozer rumbles past on the other side of the barrier, about 25 meters (yards) from Hussein’s home.
Jamal Juma, campaign coordinator for the Stop the Wall group, said the Israeli wall nips in the bud hopes for peace.
"What we are seeing on the ground is ghettos for the Palestinian people," he said.
"They are making peace impossible."
*Source: IslamOnline.net & News Agencies
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