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Israel high court orders re-routing of West Bank security barrier

[JURIST] The Israeli Supreme Court [official website] on Monday ruled that the government must change the proposed route for its West Bank security barrier [official website; JURIST news archive], finding that the current plan encroaches too much on Palestinian territory. The court found the government in contempt [Jerusalem Post report] for failing to follow its previous instructions [JURIST report] to infringe on as little Palestinian land as possible. The case involves the Palestinian village of Bilin. Residents had originally challenged the construction of the wall on the grounds that the planned route of the barrier prevented some Bilin residents from accessing their fields and orchards, thereby preventing the villagers from earning a livelihood. The court ruled Monday that the government's latest proposed route still infringed on the residents' rights.

The contested portion in Bilin is just 500 acres of a 410-mile wall along the West Bank border, which Israel began to construct in 2002 to keep suicide bombers from entering Israeli territory. The barrier has been denounced by Palestinians as a land grab and an "apartheid wall" breaking up communities and families, but Israeli officials insist it is necessary to prevent terrorist attacks. In 2006, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered Israel to dismantle another section of the wall [JURIST report] in the northern West Bank, but Israeli courts have also rejected [JURIST report] petitions by Palestinians when security concerns outweighed the Palestinians' objections. In 2004, the International Court of Justice [official website] issued a non-binding advisory opinion [text; JURIST report] that parts of the wall should be torn down.

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