The impact of the first phase of security barrier on Palestinian refugees

A watchtower along the wall near Qalqilya (Photo: PENGON, 2003)

On 31 July, the Israeli Ministry of Defence announced the completion of the first phase of the security barrier, officially launched on 16 June 2002.(1) The first stage comprises a 123-kilometre-long-section extending from Salem checkpoint in the northwest Jenin district, through the Tulkarm and Qalqilya governorates, to Masha village in the Salfit area. In practice, work is still continuing on the southern section of this phase: the pedestrian and agricultural gates are being installed and the electronic “smart fence”, the central component of the system, has yet to become operational. The subsidiary barriers, including deep trenches or “depth barriers” have yet to be built, although construction of the depth barrier around Tulkarm appears to be imminent.(2)

Another stage, approximately 20 kilometres of the “Jerusalem envelope”, has been constructed: in the north four kilometres from Kalandia checkpoint to Opher military camp in the Ramallah area, and the rest from Gilo settlement to Beit Sahur in the Bethlehem area. As work is still ongoing it is difficult to gauge the likely effects of this phase, particularly as residents of these areas already have to pass through the Kalandia and Gilo checkpoints to enter Jerusalem. Affected areas in the northern Jerusalem area include A-Ram, Kalandia, Kufr Aqab, El-Bira and Rafat, and the barrier will eventually extend to the Jaba junction. Kalandia camp residents will end up on the “Palestinian” side of the barrier: according to PENGON, “the northern Jerusalem Wall is isolating 15,000 Jerusalem ID holders, living in Kufr Aqab and Qalandiya Refugee Camp from the city, their familial and social ties, and public services.”(3) Conversely, Abu Dis, el-Azariya, Anata, Hizma and Beit Iksa will lie on the “Israeli side” of the barrier.(4) Although the US administration has objected to the inclusion of Palestinian areas within the “Jerusalem envelope” it appears that the Israeli authorities are prepared to disregard these objections.(5)

In the Bethlehem area, part of the barrier has been constructed from the Gilo tunnel on Route 60, past Aida Camp, Rachel’s Tomb and Har Homa settlement to Route 356 past Beit Sahur. The new checkpoint/gate for Bethlehem will be 200 metres south of the current Gilo checkpoint and the route of the barrier around Rachel’s Tomb will leave approximately 500 Bethlehem residents on the “Jerusalem side”.(6) The barrier will closely abut Aida camp and three houses in the camp will also be isolated on the “Israeli side”.(7)

A 40-kilometre section is currently underway in the northern Jenin district from Salem checkpoint to Jalbun, to be complete by 31 December 2003. Here the barrier appears to closely follow the Green Line, although constructed entirely within the West Bank. The overall impact is as yet unclear, but may be less detrimental to the Palestinian communities concerned than in other phases.

Future Phases:

The second phase will continue the barrier from the village of Masha in the southern Qalqilya district to join up with the northern Jerusalem section at Ofer Camp near Ramallah. Plans adopted some months ago by Prime Minister Sharon and Defence Minister Mofaz, included a massive detour eastwards to bring the settlements of Ariel, Qedumim and Emmanuel on the ‘Israeli side’ of the fence. This would have doubled the length of the original route - roughly corresponding to the Green Line - from 110 to 210 kilometres.(8) The US administration’s strong objections to these indents - including, most recently, threats to deduct the cost of the settlement diversions from the US$ 9 billion loan guarantees — has apparently resulted in a revision of this plan. The alternative route, which will avoid encircling Ariel and the other settlements, the will not some 160 kilometres from Masha to Ofer Camp, and may be presented for formal approval by the Israeli cabinet as early as 17 August.(9) However, while this route will adhere closer to the Green Line than the previous plan, it is expected that an unknown number of Palestinian enclaves will be created west of the barrier.

There are plans to extend the barrier from the Bethlehem area to Arad south of Hebron, a distance of some 120 kilometres, although the planning, route, budget and completion date for this section are still vague.

Although the scheme has not been formally approved by the cabinet, it appears that Prime Minister Sharon and Defence Minister Mofaz have also planned an additional barrier down the Jordan Valley.(10) Planning for this stage is apparently well-advanced, with the barrier continuing on from the northern section currently under construction from Salem to Jalbun.(11) The barrier will then run to the settlement of Maale Ephraim, from where it will continue southward, to the northern Dead Sea area. The eastern barrier will not be entirely made up of a fence, but some of it will be based on a natural cliff that descends into the Jordan Valley, along with ditches in several places. According to Ma’ariv the length of the entire barrier, east and west, will eventually extend between 800 and 900 kilometres. The estimated cost of construction is estimated at NIS 10 million per kilometre of fence, so that the entire project is expected to cost between NIS 8-9 billion.

Impact of first Phase

Note: The statistics and tables below refer to the completed 123-kilometre section which traverses the Jenin, Tulkarm and Qalqilya governorates. A clear overview and detailed maps of the affected regions are available from OCHA: The West Bank Wall: Humanitarian Status Report — Northern West Bank Trajectory, July 2003. Available on OCHA has also prepared the map which accompanies this report. Population statistics are based on mid-2003 projections of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) 1997 census figures; refugee family numbers are from the Relief and Social Services Department in UNRWA West Bank Field Office. The UNRWA official estimate for the average West Bank refugee family is five persons.

The construction of phase one of the “separation fence” will have as yet undetermined impact on approximately 60 towns, villages, “khirbets” and refugee camps.

Most affected will be 14 communities completely isolated between the barrier and the Green Line, numbering 13,636 Palestinians, including 374 refugee families, or 1,870 individuals.

Because of the creation of “depth barriers” and the winding nature of the security barrier itself, additional enclaves will be created to the east of the barrier: 15 communities will be affected, numbering approximately 138,593 Palestinians, including 13,450 refugee families, or 67,250 individuals.

In addition, an undetermined number of communities will be impacted by the wall to a greater or lesser degree — losing land, irrigation networks or infrastructure in the construction and experiencing access problems once the construction is complete. At least 33 communities will be affected, numbering 69,019 Palestinians, including 1,467 refugee families, or 7,335 families.

In total, over 220,000 people will be affected to some degree, including 15,291 refugee families, or 76,455 individuals, representing one third of the total population.

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