Israel completes construction of separation wall in South Hebron Hills

Israeli authorities have reportedly completed the construction of a 26-mile section of Israel’s separation wall — deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004 — in the South Hebron Hills in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli media reported on Wednesday that the concrete barrier was erected between the Tarquimiya crossing and the Israeli town of Meitar.

The resumption of the barrier’s construction earlier this year was reportedly advanced as a punitive response to a deadly shooting attack in Tel Aviv carried out in June last year by Palestinians from the village of Yatta in Hebron.

According to Israeli media, the 26-mile barrier consists of some 20-feet-high cement blocks, where “additional protective measures” are also expected to be installed. Before the construction of the cement wall, a barrier fence was erected by Israeli authorities there.

“The completion of the wall in the southern Hebron Hills is another step in the Ministry of Defense’s efforts to significantly increase the security of residents of the area, and of all Israeli citizens,” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman reportedly said.

“Our struggle against terror is carried out in a variety of ways, one of which is the construction of the security wall,” he added.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Defense was not immediately available for comment.

Israel’s separation wall, expected to reach 440 miles upon its completion — 88 percent of which is planned inside occupied Palestinian territory, is a common site in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli-installed cement walls and barrier fences zig zag throughout the landscape.

Israeli leaders often claim that the wall serves a security purpose to deter potential Palestinian attacks on Israelis. However, many activists, academics, and analysts have said that the wall is instead a massive “land grab” of large tracts of the Palestinian territory, and a strategy to consolidate Israel’s sovereignty over Area C — the more than 60 percent of the occupied West Bank under full Israeli control — where all of Israel’s illegal settlements are built or are in the process of being constructed.

Area C of the West Bank was expected to be gradually transferred to the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority (PA) according to the Oslo peace agreements in the 1990s. However, decades later Israel still maintains full civil and military control over the area.

Israel began building the separation wall with concrete slabs, fences, and barbed-wire inside the occupied West Bank in 2002 at the height of the Second Intifada, claiming it was crucial for security.

The ICJ issued an advisory opinion in 2004 stating that the wall was illegal under international law and its construction must stop immediately, adding that reparations should be paid to Palestinians whose properties were damaged as a result of the construction.

However, the wall’s construction has continued unabated, encroaching deep into the Palestinian territory, and leaving Palestinian neighborhoods stranded on both sides of the barrier, and isolating communities from their agricultural lands.