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Israeli security barrier

In 2003, Israel began construction on a security barrier inside the West Bank, called the "seam zone". There is already a similar barrier inside the Gaza Strip (seperating it from both Israel and Egypt), and along the borders with Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.

Table of contents
1 Official Purpose
2 Structure and Timeline
3 Reaction
4 See also
5 External Links

Official Purpose

The Israeli government says the purpose of the security barrier is to prevent terrorists from entering Israeli cities, a problem which has plagued Israel since the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Its secondary purpose is to prevent illegal infilitrations of Palestinians, mainly illegal immigrants and car thieves. Political commentators have suggested a wide variety of other explanations.

Structure and Timeline

The barrier is a combination of fence, wall, various earthworks and security apparatus. Only small parts of the fence are made of concrete wall - 8 miles around Qalqiliya and around Jerusalem - where shooting attacks toward Israelis have occured.

As of November 2003, the barrier extends inside most of the north-western and western edges of the West Bank, sometimes close to the border and sometimes cutting deeply towards the east. In some places there are also secondary barriers. It is not known whether a decision has been made to build a barrier also on the eastern side of the main regions of Palestinian population. Depending mostly on this decision, somewhere between 15% and 45% of the West Bank will eventually be outside the barrier.

In October 2003, the region between the barrier and the border of the West Bank (the "green line") was declared a special military area. Although all Israelis and all Jews regardless of nationality can enter the region freely, Palestinians can enter only with special permits even if they are residents of one of the dozen or so Arab villages in the region. Many of the latter Arabs who tried to obtain permits were refused them.

In October 2003, the United States vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution stating:

The construction by Israel, the occupying power, of a wall in the Occupied Territories departing from the armistice line of 1949 is illegal under relevant provisions of international law and must be ceased and reversed.

The United Kingdom, Germany, Bulgaria and Cameroon abstained from the vote. The justification given by the U.S. for the veto was that the resolution did not condemn terrorist attacks made by Palestinian groups.

One week later, a similar resolution was passed by the UN General Assembly 144-4 with 12 absentions. The resolution said the barrier was "in contradiction to international law," and demanded that Israel "stop and reverse" its construction. Israel called the resolution a "farce".

In December 2003, the General Assembly passed a resolution requesting the International Court of Justice to make an advisory ruling on the "legal consequences arising" from the construction of the barrier. The hearings will begin in February 2004. Israel announced that it would cooperate with the court but noted that advisory rulings are not binding. The Palestinian Authority is not a member of the court but will be allowed to make a submission by virtue of being a UN observer and a co-sponsor of the UNGA resolution. In January 2004, the court also authorized the League of Arab States to make a submission in the case.

In January 2004, Israel's Supreme Court announced it would meet within a month to review the legality of the wall, its route, and surrounding issues.



Israeli public opinion has been very strongly in favor of the barrier, partly in the hope that it will improve security and partly in the belief (denied by the government) that the barrier marks the eventual border of a Palestinian state. Due to the latter possibility, the settler movement oppose the barrier, though this opposition has waned since it became clear the barrier would be diverted to the east of major Israeli settlements such as Ariel.

Israeli officers, including the head of the Shin Bet, that were quoted in Maariv daily newspaper claimed that in the areas where the fence was complete, the amount of hostile infilitrations decreased to almost zero. In the Gaza Strip, which is surrounded completely by fence, there were almost no infilitrations of suicide bombers into the nearby cities Ashkelon and Sderot and the Kibbutz Nahal Oz.


Palestinian public opinion is overwhelmingly against the barrier. A large number of Palestinians have been separated from their lands or their places of work or study and many more will be as the barriers near Jerusalem are completed.

The Palestinian leadership fears that the fence will thwart their political agenda relating to the question of Israel and set the future borders de-facto against their will.

Arabic news organisations such as Al-Jazeera call the barrier a separation wall or an apartheid wall.

Israeli, Palestinian, and international activist groups such as the International Solidarity Movement have made several attempts to sabotage the barrier.

See also

External Links