A United Nations independent expert today called on Israel to immediately halt construction of a settlement highway that he said would cut through the Palestinian community of Beit Safafa endangering the livelihoods of some 9,300 people.
“The projected six-lane highway extending 1.5 kilometres will do irreparable damage to the community, cutting off local roads and blocking access to kindergartens, schools, health clinics, offices, and places of worship,” warned the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk.
“The residents of Beit Safafa, who were not consulted at any stage of the planning, will be placed in an absurd situation where places within their own community – previously accessible within ten minutes' walk – would require travel by car on bypass roads and a bridge.”
Mr. Falk noted that the purpose of the highway, known as 'Begin Highway,' is to annex the Gush Etzion settlement bloc and pave the way for further expansion of Israel's illegal settlements around East Jerusalem.
“It will consolidate the highway network from Gush Etzion settlement in the southern West Bank through West and East Jerusalem, leading to the Ma'ale Adumim settlement bloc and the E1 area,” he said.
Mr. Falk recalled the recent findings of the International Fact Finding Mission on Israeli settlements, which recommended that private companies should no longer be able to profit from their involvement in the illegal Israeli settlement enterprise.
“Companies taking part in the construction of the illegal highway in Beit Safafa, under the auspices of the Moriah Jerusalem Development Company and their implementing partner, D.Y. Barazani Ltd., must be held responsible,” he stressed. “Earth moving equipment of Volvo, CAT, Hyundai and JCB has been seen at the construction sites.”
The project, which began in September, was challenged in the Jerusalem District Court last December, but the residents' petition to stop construction was rejected. An appeal filed with the Israeli High Court against the District Court's decision was also rejected in March. An appeal hearing as to the petition has been scheduled in the High Court for 26 June.