21. In June 2002, the Israeli Government decided to erect a 723-kilometre-long barrier to separate Israel and the West Bank, with the stated purpose of preventing Palestinian suicide bombers from entering Israel.
22. The International Court of Justice, in its 2004 advisory opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (see A/ES-10/273 and Corr.1), concluded that the route chosen by the Government of Israel running inside the West Bank, along with the associated regime, gravely infringed a number of rights of Palestinians residing in the territory occupied by Israel, and thus breached various obligations of Israel under international humanitarian and human rights law.
23. The construction of the wall, which fragments the West Bank into non-contiguous enclaves, brought new restrictions on movement and access for Palestinians living near the wall, in addition to widespread restrictions and measures associated with the closure regime of existing checkpoints and roadblocks. In addition to its immediate impact on freedom of movement, the wall and the associated restrictions of movement significantly undermine the enjoyment of a host of other fundamental human rights (see A/HRC/8/18). For this reason, the impact of the wall warrants a closer review in the context of this report.
24. The majority of the route, approximately 87 per cent, runs inside the West Bank and East Jerusalem rather than along the 1949 Armistice Line (Green Line). Despite the judgement of the Israeli High Court of Justice in February 2004,9 and despite the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice of 9 July 2004, construction of the wall continues, with approximately 57 per cent of it already completed and 9 per cent presently under construction.
25. On 28 and 29 July 2008, Israeli authorities declared that they would demolish sections of the wall around the village of Bil’in, west of Ramallah, and near Qalqilia, in the northern West Bank, moving the wall’s location in those two areas by 2.4 kilometres and allowing Palestinian farmers to have access to 2,600 dunums of land. The decisions came after years of deliberations in which the Israeli High Court decided against three sections of the wall on grounds that the harm to Palestinians was disproportionate and ordered the State to move it.10
26. In areas where the wall has already been built, extensive violations of human rights of Palestinians living nearby are frequently reported. In areas located between the barrier and the Green Line, which represent 9.8 per cent of the West Bank, access by Palestinian farmers to their lands and water resources is severely limited and can be achieved only through restrictive permit and gate regimes. Farmers need “visitor” permits to cross the wall to reach their farms and wells and, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, fewer than 20 per cent of farmers who used to work on their land in those areas prior to the completion of the barrier are now granted access to them.
27. Reduced opportunity for cultivation has led to the dismantling of greenhouses and a change in the nature of crops. As a result, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, unemployment has increased and communities that used to export food have been transformed into recipients of food aid. In addition, health and education services are difficult to access as they lie in what has become the Palestinian side of the barrier. Children, patients and workers have to pass through gates to reach schools, medical facilities and workplaces and to visit family members living on the other side of the wall.
28. For those granted permits, access is possible through a limited number of designated gates. Along the total length of the wall, there are 66 gates currently open on a daily, weekly or seasonal basis. Restricted opening times and the inconvenient location of some gates severely curtail the time available for farming, with a consequent negative impact on rural livelihoods.
29. As at the date of the present report, a 168-kilometre-long section of the wall separates East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. Since 1993, the Government of Israel has erected checkpoints on roads leading to the city and required West Bank Palestinians to obtain permits to enter. Further restrictions were imposed following the beginning of the second intifada. The wall around East Jerusalem further tightens the network imposed to restrict the movement of Palestinians. In conjunction with the identification card and permit system and the series of checkpoints, the wall has weakened the social and economic connections between residents of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
30. Furthermore, the wall encircles settlements built around Jerusalem and within the West Bank and connects them to Israel, ensuring that Israeli settlers have unimpeded access to Jerusalem. Over 80 per cent of all Israeli settlers living in the West Bank reside to the west of the wall. The settler population and the land area of the settlements have rapidly expanded, helped by the Israeli policy of expanding settlements and by the existence of the wall, which creates a new established border. According to the Israeli Ministry of the Interior, the settler population in the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, increased by 5.1 per cent in 2008, from an estimated 268,163 in January 2007 to 282,362 in January 2008.11 At the same time, the wall weaves around and between East Jerusalem and West Bank towns and villages. In some cases it cuts through Palestinian communities, dividing neighbourhoods.
31. Because of the construction of the wall and the permits needed to enter Jerusalem through the four accessible checkpoints along the barrier,12 access to specialist health care has become increasingly difficult for Palestinians of the West Bank and even those residing in areas of East Jerusalem. Movement restrictions also hamper medical staff from reaching their workplaces. Daily problems or delays for ambulances are also recurrent in emergency situations. In some cases, only after the intervention of the International Committee of the Red Cross, were Palestinian Red Crescent Society ambulances permitted to cross.
32. The wall is dividing students and teachers from their schools. Of the 33,000 students and 2,000 teachers in East Jerusalem schools, as many as 6,000 pupils and more than 650 teachers face difficulty reaching schools. The general school dropout rate increased across the Occupied Palestinian Territory in 2007, reaching 33.4 per cent among males and 27.4 per cent for females,13 and schools are also struggling to find qualified local staff. In contrast, schools in other areas face severely overcrowded classrooms, as students cut off from other institutions are obliged to move to schools on their side of the wall.
33. Security measures taken by IDF have also had an impact on access to religious sites, and with the construction of the wall, only Palestinian permit-holders from the West Bank can have access to places of worship in Jerusalem, such as the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Holy Sepulchre. Even for Jerusalem identification holders, access to the mosque is not always guaranteed on Fridays, allegedly for security reasons, and young men may be checked several times before being allowed to enter Al-Haram al-Sharif.
34. During Christian religious seasons such as Christmas and Easter, it may be easier for West Bank Palestinians to obtain permits than at other times of the year. The difficulty of access and the general economic difficulties faced by Christians have resulted in significant emigration from places like Bethlehem.
35. By preventing the ordinary movement of people from the West Bank, the wall has caused the isolation of markets in East Jerusalem: traders and consumers from the West Bank no longer have access to its markets and most Israelis no longer travel to Palestinian areas. Gaza businesses are almost entirely cut off from the Jerusalem economy. As a result, shops struggle to pay municipal taxes and eventually often employ only family members to reduce costs or even succumb to financial pressure and close down. Significantly, unemployment in East Jerusalem is much higher than in Israel.14 According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, general unemployment in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in the first quarter of 2008 was estimated to be around 28.9 per cent; specifically, 25.7 per cent in the West Bank and 35.5 per cent in the Gaza Strip (see also A/HRC/7/76 and A/HRC/8/17).
36. Commercial goods coming from the West Bank must pass through major commercial checkpoints in the wall. Traders need prior approval for trade permits for East Jerusalem, which involves a complex and expensive application processes. It is impossible for goods coming from the West Bank and Gaza to enter East Jerusalem unless they have travelled through an Israeli checkpoint.
37. Upon completion, 87 per cent of the wall will be located inside the West Bank, and 9.8 per cent of West Bank territory, including East Jerusalem, will be cut off from the rest of the West Bank. Approximately 420,000 settlers in 80 settlements and 285,000 Palestinians (including in East Jerusalem) will be located between the wall and the Green Line. Approximately 125,000 Palestinians in 28 communities will be surrounded on three sides by the wall, and 26,000 Palestinians in 8 communities will be surrounded on four sides.