In 2002, the Government of Israel approved construction of a Barrier in and around the West Bank with the stated purpose of preventing violent attacks by Palestinians in Israel. Land for construction of Barrier sections inside the West Bank has been requisitioned from Palestinian landowners. Approximately 64.2 per cent (456km) of the projected 710-kilometre-long structure has been completed, of which 85 per cent runs inside the West Bank. The Barrier impedes access to services and resources, disrupts family and social life, undermines livelihoods and compounds the fragmentation of the occupied Palestinian territory. On 9 July 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an Advisory Opinion which recognized that Israel faced “indiscriminate and deadly acts of violence” but at the same time stated that the part of the Barrier which runs inside the West Bank, together with the associated gate and permit regime, violates Israel’s obligations under international law and should be dismantled.
In recent months, increased restrictions have been reported in the northern West Bank which are aﬀecting the access of farmers to their agricultural land isolated by the Barrier. These restrictions relate to a minimum area of land and land ownership documents required before Palestinian landowners can apply for permits to cross the Barrier. Although these restrictions have been included in previous ‘Standing Orders’ published by the Israeli authorities, which detail the regulations governing access to areas behind the Barrier, the concern is that stricter application of regulations will further restrict Palestinian access to agricultural land and livelihoods in Barrier-aﬀected areas.
The Barrier in the Jerusalem area has transformed the geography, economy and social life of East Jerusalem and its wider metropolitan area. In the areas where it follows the Israeli-defined municipal boundary, the Barrier physically separates Palestinian communities onto either side of what had previously been only a jurisdictional division. Thus, some Jerusalem suburbs that were once closely connected to the city are now walled out, with previously flourishing residential and commercial centres closing down, and families being forced to leave to areas with better access to services and livelihoods.
Israel restricts Palestinian movement within the oPt, including between the Gaza Strip and West Bank, through a combination of physical obstacles, bureaucratic constraints, and the designation of areas as restricted or closed. Combined, these restrictions impede access to services and resources, disrupt family and social life and undermine Palestinians’ enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights, undermine livelihoods and compound the fragmentation of the oPt.
The olive harvest season started during October amidst escalating clashes and attacks (see section on Escalation). There were also recurrent concerns about restrictions on the access of farmers to their olive groves in certain areas and about inadequate law enforcement in the face of settler violence.
On 17 August, the Israeli authorities resumed construction of a section of the Barrier in the Cremisan valley extending from Beit Jala to the village of Al Walaja in Bethlehem governorate. Construction has resulted in the uprooting of ancient olive trees (see bellow) and the resumption of local protests. Based on previous experience in other West Bank areas, there is concern that agriculture-based livelihoods in the Cremisan area will be eroded.
During the first quarter of 2015, Israeli forces killed five Palestinians, including one child, and injured 452 Palestinians across the oPt, including 97 children, 19 women, and four international activists and journalists; this marked the lowest number of fatalities and injuries since the second quarter of 2013 and the last quarter of 2011 respectively. Four fatalities and 436 injuries were recorded in the West Bank and one fatality and 16 injuries in Gaza.