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What is the fence that Israel is building in the occupied territories?

Known to Palestinians as the "Apartheid Wall," Israeli officials claim the huge wall being built on the western edge of the West Bank is designed to protect Israel, by keeping potential attackers out. Begun in 2002 and supported by both the Labor Party and the right-wing Likud, the wall includes electric fences, trenches and security patrols, and is planned to eventually extend to the full length of the West Bank.

But the Wall was not built to follow the Green Line, the border between Israel and the West Bank; instead it curved significantly eastward to encompass huge settlement blocs, large tracts of Palestinian farmland, and major water sources on the Israeli side. According to official Israel maps obtained by the Palestinian human rights organization LAW, 11,000 Palestinians live in the area between the Green Line and the wall, in what will become a closed military zone. Thousands of acres of land on both sides of the wall--amounting to almost 10% of West Bank land--are being seized by the Israeli military, cleared of houses or farmland. Palestinian farmers were supposed to be allowed to cross the wall to farm their land, but in many areas the wall extends for huge distances without access gates being built. Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations estimated that when completed, and matched by the planned parallel wall in the Jordan Valley, that 90,000 Palestinians would have lost their land.

The wall will completely surround the large Palestinian town of Qalqilya in the northern West Bank, separating the town from the West Bank. Besides isolating its population, the effect will also include bringing the valuable Western Aquifer System entirely under Israeli control, as its Palestinian portion lies beneath lands to be seized in Qalqiyla.

In 2003 Israel announced it would build another wall down the Jordan Valley, thus effectively sealing off a truncated West Bank with impenetrable steel. The result will be to ensure Sharon's stated goal of allowing a Palestinian "entity" of no more than about 40% of the West Bank, in several non-contiguous chunks, plus about 70% of Gaza.

As LAW points out, under the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory, the destruction or seizure of property in Occupied Territories is forbidden, as is collective punishment. Article 47 outlines that Occupying Powers must not make changes to property in occupied territories. Seizure of land in occupied territories is prohibited under Article 52 of the Hague Regulations of 1907, which is a part of customary international law. And according to international humanitarian law governing occupation, Occupiers cannot make any changes in the status of occupied territories. Israel's apartheid wall seizes land, destroys and permanently changes the status of occupied territories.