Construction of Annexation Barrier Begins Again in Betlehem District
On Wednesday, March 3, the Israeli military accompanied 2 bulldozers onto privately-owned Palestinian land in the village of Beit Jala, north of Betlehem. Olive, walnut and other fruit trees were being uprooted in preparation for the continued construction of the Annexation Barrier (also referred as the Apartheid Wall), which had been halted in almost all of the West Bank for over a year.
A group of Beit Jala residents, led by Leila Awad, a landowner who believes she is under threat of eviction because the Barrier will be built within 5 meters of her home, protested the bulldozing. They were joined by Israeli and international solidarity activists, as well as Palestinians from PSP as they attempted to block the work of the bulldozers. The Israeli military managed to push the group back away from the work site several meters, until the protesters sat on the ground, refusing to leave and demanding to see a closed military zone order.
The next day, Thursday, March 4, residents, accompanied by solidarity activists again, returned to the site, where a few solidarity activists chained themselves to olive trees in the vicinity. In addition, they took advantage of a lull in the bulldozers’ work to plant some trees to replace those that had been uprooted.
In this area, the Annexation Barrier is being built between the Palestinian town of Beit Jala and a settler-only road near the Cremisan monastery. While part of the Barrier was completed in this area as early as 2004, construction on the Barrier, with the exception of the work near the village of Ni’lin in the Ramallah District, had been on hold since 2008. Several reports from the Israeli military and Israeli news sources cited both a financial crisis and “improved security” as reasons for not completing the Barrier in the past year, which is only two-thirds complete (though it is allegedly for the prevention of infiltration of Israel by Palestinians). However, it appears that in areas where Israel is particularly interested in setting borders–around Jerusalem especially–they intend to complete the Barrier, creating more facts on the ground.