Israel’s construction of a separation barrier will severely affect the lives of Palestinians in the Jerusalem area in wide-ranging activities from education to health care to relief and social services, according to the latest update of a report by the main United Nations agency helping Palestine refugees.
The report by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the first in a series of regular updates, notes that 260 students out of a total 7,246 attending UNRWA schools, along with 86 out of 263 teachers, will be affected in their daily movements by the barrier, which will cut them off from places of learning.
"Beyond logistical problems of access, proximity of the schools to the barrier site is likely to have a psychologically disruptive effect on all students and teachers alike," it says.
Israel explains the need for the Wall as a direct response to Palestinian suicide attacks from across the Green Line (separating Israel and the occupied territories), intended to prevent infiltration by Palestinian militants.
While it is so far impossible to determine how many of the more than 9,000 students attending schools run by the Palestinian Authority will be affected, the number will most likely be considerable, the report says.
On health care, it notes that the barrier will directly affect access to UNRWA's Jerusalem Health Centre, which treated more than 27,000 patients in the August-October period last year, about 60 per cent of whom came from the city's outskirts and will therefore face delays and obstructions. Two other health centres will be separated from surrounding areas. "Also access of refugees to secondary and tertiary care in Jerusalem hospitals will be severely hampered," the report adds.
UNRWA says a "remarkable number" of barrier-related accidents involving falling or slipping are being reported. "Apparently some grease is spread at the bottom of the barrier, in order to discourage or damage 'infiltrators'," the agency notes.
Noting that the barrier already built in northern areas of the West Bank is "clearly resulting in impoverishment," the report predicts a "similar effect" in the Jerusalem area."
In a separate development, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is considering a case concerning the "Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory," today granted a request by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to participate in the proceedings.