Rights group slams Israeli violations

International pressure group Human Rights Watch has condemned Israel's West Bank barrier as a "serious violation" of the country's obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

    Human Rights Watch says barrier hurts Palestinians

    Acting head of the group's Middle East and North Africa division, Joe Stork, said on Monday that that wall was also a blatant attempt to consolidate illegal Jewish settlement in the occupied territories.
      
    By confining more than 100,000 civilians inside enclaves which are regulated by a highly-complex regime of permits, Stork said the barrier "institutionalises a system in which all movement for large numbers of people is sharply curtailed," thereby endangering access to basic services.
      
    "Israel's separation barrier seriously impedes Palestinian access to essentials of civilian life, such as work, education and medical care."

    Defensive?

    Israel claims its "counter-terror fence" is purely to prevent the infiltration of Palestinian fighters - justifying it by Sunday's bus bombing which killed eight people in Jerusalem.

    But various other countries see it as little more than a land-grab and a bid to pre-empt the borders of a future Palestinian state. 
      

    "Israel has a right and duty to protect its civilians from attack but it must not use means that entail indiscrimate punishment of entire communities."

    Joe Stork,
    acting head of the group's Middle East and North Africa division

    Although Stork acknowledged Israel's "right and duty" to protect its citizens from harm, he insisted such a right should not be used in a harmful way.
      
    "Israel has a right and duty to protect its civilians from attack but it must not use means that entail indiscrimate punishment of entire communities."
      
    Land grab

    HRW also said the barrier's tortuous route, which often juts deep into Palestinian territory, was a clear attempt to include Jewish settlements "within" Israel.
      
    "The existing and planned route of the barrier appears to be designed chiefly to incorporate, and make contiguous with Israel, illegal civilian settlements."
     
    HRW said the route encroached on some of the West Bank's most fertile, well-fed areas, affecting local access to water, with the aim of "consolidating this illegal enterprise."
      
    Without an "urgent modification" of current plans, the barrier would dramatically increase Palestinian impoverishment by further reducing employment, access to irrigation water, agricultural production, literacy rates, access to education and to maternal and infant health care.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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