- (Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman)
The Israeli Army began deconstructing a section of the West Bank barrier near the Bilin village on Sunday, four years after the Israeli Supreme Court ordered them to do so.
Built in 2002 after a string of suicide bombers disrupted Israeli cities, the army said the barrier was needed to keep out Palestinian attackers. However, the Supreme Court rejected this claim in 2007, siding with its critics who say that the route of the barrier is designed to keep Palestinians from their land and promote Israeli settlements. The court ruled that the barrier must be rerouted and built closer to the Israeli town of Modi'in Ilit.
The village of Bilin had lost half its land with the erection of the barrier, according to Al Jazeera. The new route gives 140 acres back to the Palestinians. The total cost of the project is estimated to be around $9 million.
Colonel Saar Tsur, the regional Israeli brigade commander, reported that the military has replaced a 3.2km segment of the barrier with a 2.7km concrete wall next to the village. "This is a new threat but we can handle it," Tsur told Al Jazeera. The military claims it will have a slower response time in the scenario of unauthorized border crossings.
The implementation of the 2007 Court ruling is a victory for the Palestinian villagers and supporters who, for several years, held weekly demonstrations against the erection of the barrier. These demonstrations often ended with clashes between the Palestinian youth and Israeli Army who would exchange tear gas, rocks, and rubber bullets. These protests caught the international eye and were seen as the symbol of Palestinian resistance to Israeli encroachment on their land.
On Friday, protesters attempted to use bulldozers to tear down the fence before the Army could initiate the deconstruction. "We are going to continue until we get all our rights. This barrier isn't for security. It's to steal land and build settlements," Rani Burnat, a 30-year-old resident paralyzed in a separate demonstration 10 years ago, told Al Jazeera.