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Ban says Israel’s construction of West Bank wall violates international law, fuels Mid-East tensions

Palestinian women walk by Israel's barrier near Ramallah in the West Bank.
IRIN/Shabtai Gold
Palestinian women walk by Israel's barrier near Ramallah in the West Bank.

Ban says Israel’s construction of West Bank wall violates international law, fuels Mid-East tensions

At a special meeting to mark the 10th anniversary of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory ruling declaring illegal Israel’s construction of a separation wall in the West Bank, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today called for a halt to the current violence between Israelis and Palestinians, while also the need all Member States to comply with international law.

In a statement to the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, delivered by Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. Ban urged all sides to abide by their international obligations, emphasizing that the wall and increased settlement activity were fuelling tensions.

“The implications of the wall go far beyond its legality,” he stated, pointing out that 10 years ago today, the ICJ in its Advisory Opinion on the “Legal Consequences of a Wall in the Occupied Territory” found that the Israeli construction of the Wall within the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, violated Israel’s obligation under international law.

On 09 July 2004, the Advisory Opinion called on Israel to cease the construction of the Wall, bring down the parts that had already been built, and halt the severe restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians living in the West Bank. In addition, the Advisory Opinion pointed out that all States were not only under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall, but that States Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention had the additional obligation to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law.

“The wall severely restricts Palestinian movement and access throughout the West Bank, cuts off land and access to resources needed for Palestinian development, and continues to undermine agricultural and rural livelihoods throughout the West Bank,” Mr. Ban said.

The wall and increased settlement expansion have worsened the fragmentation of the Palestinian Territory, compounding the increasing isolation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the Territory, Mr. Ban continued. Israel’s Government, however, claims that the wall is a temporary security measure.

Since 2008, a UN office collecting data on the damage caused by the construction of the wall, has collected 42,600 claims and over 1.1 million supporting documents.

Also today, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs released a new report which summarizes the continuing humanitarian impact of the barrier on Palestinian rural and urban communities. It notes that after a decade, 62 per cent of the wall has been constructed, including 200 kilometres since the ICJ Advisory Opinion.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Committee approved a statement by which it reaffirmed all aspects of the ICJ decision and reiterated the call by the Court on the UN General Assembly and the Security Council to consider what further action is required to bring to an end the illegal situation resulting from Israel’s construction of the wall and the associated regime.

By its statement, the Committee deeply regretted that the Security Council has “remained silent” on the critical matter of Israel’s construction of the Wall, and has failed in recent years to take action to condemn and bring a halt to Israel’s continuing violations of international law, especially those related to the illegal settlement expansion and the Wall.

Calling on the Security Council to act urgently and decisively to compel Israel to end its violations of international law, the Committee also stressed that more active steps from the international community, Governments, international organizations, parliamentarians and civil society, are required to salvage the two-State solution in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions, the Madrid principles and the Arab Peace Initiative, the Quartet Roadmap, and to assist the Palestinian people to realize their inalienable rights, justice, freedom and peace.