An Israel barrier being built cutting off the occupied West Bank from the Jewish state amounts to an illegal annexation of Palestinian territory and must be condemned by the international community, according to a UN human rights report.
The wall erected in recent months would incorporate “substantial areas” of the West Bank into Israel, said John Dugard, the world body's special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories on Tuesday.
“The evidence strongly suggests that Israel is determined to create facts on the ground amounting to de facto annexation,” said the report.
“Annexation of this kind, known as conquest in international law, is prohibited by the Charter of the United Nations and the Fourth Geneva Convention,” it added.
Dugard said it was time to condemn the wall as an unlawful act of occupation, in the same way Israel’s annexation of occupied East Jerusalem and Syria’s Golan Heights had been condemned.
UN Security Council resolutions criticised Israel’s 1967 occupation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, seized after the Arab-Israeli war of that year.
Dugard’s report was released as the Israeli cabinet prepared to meet on Wednesday to decide on the route of the next portion of the barrier.
The wall, condemned by the international community, seizes some of the most fertile areas in the West Bank and prevents farmers from reaching their land.
Rare US criticism
Washington has strongly objected to plans to incorporate settlements in the West Bank on the Israeli side of the wall. Under international law, all Jewish settlements are illegal.
Israel strongly criticised the UN experts' report, claiming it was “one-sided, highly politicised and biased”.
Israel insists the wall is necessary to deter resistance attacks.
The world body report called on Israel to place a limit on “the violation of human rights in the name of counter-terrorism”.
Palestinians fear wall will mark
borders of a future homeland
But Dugard doubted the barrier would prevent attacks, saying occupation troops had concluded that most resistance fighters had taken advantage of flawed searches to cross through checkpoints.
An estimated 200,000 to 400,000 Jewish settlers are likely to be incorporated on the Israeli side of the $1.4 billion wall, further undermining efforts to tackle the issue in peace talks.
“The construction of the wall within the West Bank and the continued expansion of settlements, which, on the face of it, have more to do with territorial expansion, de facto annexation or conquest, raise serious doubts about the good faith of Israel’s justifications in the name of security,” concluded Dugard.
The report is due to be formally presented to the 2004 session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in March, said a world body spokesperson.
The Israeli government refused to cooperate with Dugard.