RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinians are concerned about Israel’s recent decision to replace the northern West Bank security barrier with a concrete fence, which they believe will entrench Israel’s takeover of the lands around the barrier.
On Nov. 14, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz approved the construction of the concrete wall in the northern West Bank, in lieu of the barbed wire fence erected 20 years ago.
Construction is expected to begin in coming months. The new wall will be equipped with advanced technological surveillance.
According to Israeli media reports, the new structure will replace a 50-kilometer stretch of fencing near the settlement of Avnei Hefetz. This part will be added to another 50-kilometer stretch of fencing from the town of Salem, which will also be replaced with a concrete wall. Work on this project had already begun in June.
The two projects, according to Israeli officials, aim to close the “holes and gaps” in the barbed fencing, in an attempt to thwart any infiltration from the West Bank into the Green Line in the wake of recent armed operations inside the Green Line.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a July 2013 report that 85% of the security barrier is located within the West Bank and not along the Green Line (the 1967 borders). In 2004, the International Court of Justice declared the security barrier illegal.
Suhail Khalilia, head of the settlement monitoring unit at the Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem, told Al-Monitor that the real aim of the wall is to draw new borders for the West Bank. The wall seized about 12.5% of the West Bank lands that are currently located between the separation wall and the Green Line, he explained
Khalilia added that Israel has already started to convert sections of the barbed wire into concrete to entrench the barrier as a permanent border for the West Bank, similarly to the wall on the border with Lebanon. The lands that Israel is seeking to control behind the wall, he said, are agricultural lands and forested areas containing natural water sources.
The planned wall stretches over 771 km long, of which Israel has completed about 500 km. Work is underway to replace other sections of the barbed fence wire, while construction on the remaining track is still pending an official decision in some areas of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Khalilia added.
Khalilia further noted that Israel used barbed wire fence in agricultural and open areas, and cement along Palestinian villages and cities.
Ayed Marar, the director-general of the legal department at the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission, told Al-Monitor that Israel decided to replace the fencing with concrete under the pretext of warding off commando operations inside the Green Line. But, he said, the wall actually aims at controlling the land and annexing large parts of the West Bank.