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Israeli Nature & Parks authority opposes route of wall in Battir

12:00 Sep 13 2012 Battir

Israeli Nature & Parks authority opposes route of wall in Battir
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The area that the separation fence is due to be built through. Photo by Michal Fattal.

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TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma'an) -- Israel's Nature and Parks Authority has rescinded its consent to build the separation wall around the village of Battir, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported Thursday.

No state agency has ever opposed the construction of the wall in any area before, Haaretz said.

The Nature and Parks Authority wrote to the Israeli Defense Ministry warning of damage to Battir's landscape and relations with villagers, and demanding the ministry find an alternative route for the wall.

The authority had reached a compromise with the ministry six years ago on the route of the wall, but is reneging on its consent.

"No matter how narrow the route of the fence, it will be a foreign engineering element in the heart of the agricultural terraces and separate the village from its lands, among which are plots irrigated by spring water," the INPA said, Haaretz reported.

The wall will also lead to the extinction of wild animals by inhibiting their movement, it noted.

"The struggle of our neighbors to name the area a World Heritage Site places us in an embarrassing position, and we should work together with them to protect the landscape," the agency added.

The Palestinian Authority has asked UNESCO to add Battir to its World Heritage List.

Battir uses an ancient system of irrigation that has provided fresh water to the community for centuries.

The proposed route of the wall will damage the terraces used for irrigation and cut off villagers from their fields and source of income.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion calling on Israel to stop building the wall and dismantle or re-route sections that had been constructed.

Israel says the wall is necessary for its security but Palestinians say it is a land grab, noting that it is not built on the Green Line and in places runs deep inside the West Bank.

The Israeli Nature and Parks Authority noted in its complaint that residents of Battir were the only Palestinians allowed to enter Israel before 1967 and the villagers had maintained security in the area.

"The case of the lands of Battir should be studied. It is a ray of light showing different relations with our neighbors built on shared interests," the authority said.
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