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  • Israeli bulldozers uproot olive trees on Palestinian lands to make way for a separation wall in Beit Jala.

    Israeli bulldozers uproot olive trees on Palestinian lands to make way for a separation wall in Beit Jala. | Photo: AFP

The Israeli military uprooted over 1,500 olive trees in Beit Jala as the wall's route runs on lands owned by more than 50 Christian Palestinian families.

The Israeli Defense Ministry resumed the building of the controversial separation wall in the historic Cremisan valley near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, despite the High Court of Justice invalidating in April its construction in that area, local media reported Tuesday.

“They apparently haven’t reconciled themselves to the ruling. What they’re doing is ‘feeding’ the court, stage by stage,” Giat Nasser, a lawyer of the Beit Jala municipality and the landowners, told Haaretz. “After they build the fence they’ll say it’s already up, then they’ll ask to build the loops around the monasteries, because there won’t be any choice.”

The wall will separate the West Bank city of Beit Jala from the settlement of Har Gilo and the village of Walaja.

According to media reports, heavy equipments and earth movers stormed the area and proceeded to uproot olive trees on Palestinian-owned lands. The wall's route will run through land owned by 58 Christian Palestinian families, close to a monastery and its sister convent and school.

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“This is the quietest area, and there are no problems here,” Beit Jala Mayor Nicola Khamis said Monday. “Today they uprooted 1,500-year-old trees. How they want us to live here in peace, I don’t know.”

The Israeli government began building the separation wall in 2002. It argues that it will prevent “terrorists” from entering Israel. However, as the wall runs through Palestinian lands, critics say that the barrier effectively allows for the annexation of Palestinian land and paves the way for the construction of more illegal Jewish settlements.

Construction in that area has been rejected by local Christian leaders and by the Vatican. In April, after nine years of legal petitions, the high court accepted one petition and instructed the Defense Ministry to stop the building and reconsider the route. However, it appears that the military is now using an order from a lower court to approve the construction.

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