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The Separation Wall

The 712 km wall in the West Bank is a combination of an eight meter high concrete wall and/or ditches, trenches, fences, razor wire, electronic fences and military roads. The International Court of Justice stated that the Wall built on West Bank land including East Jerusalem, is in violation of international law.

Facts and Figures

As of July 2013, the Wall was designed to reach a total length of approximately 712 km, which is roughly twice the length of the 1949 Armistice ‘Green’ Line. According to OCHA, approximately 62% of the Barrier’s approved route is complete, a further 10% is under construction and 28% is planned but not yet constructed.

Read OCHA Brief on ‘The Humanitarian Impact of the Barrier’ July 2013 update. 

Seam zone or "closed area"

Due to the construction of the Wall inside the Green Line, many Palestinians have found themselves caged between the Wall and the Green Line, in an area called "seam zone", "closed area" or "buffer zone". According to the Israeli seam zone authority, the "closed area" is intended to enable command and control through the usage of observation systems as well as the provision of space for pursuit of suspects.

The seam zone stretches over some of the most fertile lands in the West Bank. According to OCHA, and as of July 2012, the Seam Zone is where 7,500 West Bank Palestinians live in 42 villages and towns. Once completed, the Wall will isolate an additional 23,000 Palestinians. Palestinians residing in the area of the Seam Zone, ‘require special permits to continue living in their own homes. There are around 150 Palestinian communities that have parts of its lands isolated by the Wall, and require ‘visitors’ permits or ‘prior coordination’ to access their lands.

The Wall separates Palestinians that live in the “closed area” from the rest of the West Bank land and people. Family ties have been disturbed, farmers separated from their families, children from their schools and movement has become more difficult. Palestinians residing in the closed area face an uncertain future in terms of their personal and land status, and can be considered to live in ش coercive environment heightening the risk of forcible transfer.

Since October 2003, the residents of the "closed area" as well as visitors and humanitarian staff, are required to obtain a special type of permit, usually referred to a "green permit". This allows them to move in and out of the "closed area" through specific gates in the Wall, which do not operate regularly and appropriately.

The Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice

The Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), 9 July 2004, on the legal consequences of the construction of a Wall in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) stated that the wall built on West Bank land including East Jerusalem, is illegal due to the fact that:

The wall and its associated regime is likely to be permement and therfore clearly violate the prohibition on annexation of territory.

Contributes to demographic changes to the occupied territory in contravention of Article 49(6) GCIV, as well as Security Council Reoslutions 446, 452 and 465. 

By going around 80% of the settlements, the route of the wall reinforces the illegally of the transfer of population into occupied territory. As a further result 160,000 Palestinians would reside within encircled communities causing sepearation from other Palestinian communties.

The Wall involves the destruction and confiscation of private and public property in violation of international law

Substantial restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians, with serious negative effects on argicultural production, economic development, health care services, education establishments and primary sources of water.

The wall effectively deprives a large number of Palestinians of their freedom to chose their residence, undermining several protection under the CRC, ICCPR, ICESCR. 

The ICJ was requested by the UN General Assembly to issue an advisory opinion and decided by 14 votes to 1 to comply with that request. 

Although an advisory opinion in itself is not binding on the parties to the conflict, such an opinion is highly regarded as it comes from the most distinguished legal body in the world. An advisory opinion does not create law, but it does summarize existing law, for instance what can be considered customary law.

The court noted that:

The UN, and especially the General Assembly and the Security Council, should consider what further action is required to bring an end to the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and the associated regime, taking due account of the present advisory opinion.