Israel resumed building a separation barrier Monday near Beit Jala, a city in the West Bank, despite the country's supreme court ruling to halt construction and ordering the country to reconsider the wall, reported Haaretz. Excavators have continued to uproot trees in order to erect the barrier.
Ultimately, the barrier would separate the city of Beit Jala from the Israeli settlement of Har Gilo and village of Walaja, much to the dismay of the Walaja Town Council, which filed a petition against the barrier nine years ago along with landowners and the Roman Catholic Cremisan Monastery. The High Court of Justice only took the case this year.
In the proceedings, the monastery voiced concerns about how the planned wall would keep them from the convent they associate with, forcing clergy and congregates to pass through gates guarded by Israeli soldiers. Landowners also said they would be separated from their property. The Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of the clergy, landowners and local residents in April.
“The respondents must swiftly reconsider the various alternatives for the separation fence route in this section,” the justices wrote of their order to cease construction.
But the Defense Ministry was insistent on not complying. Three weeks ago, the department wrote a letter to the attorney, Giat Nasser, who represents the Beit Jala muncipality and informed them of its plans to build along the "invalidated route," according the Haaretz.
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) August 17, 2015
“They apparently haven’t reconciled themselves to the ruling,” said Nasser. “What they’re doing is ‘feeding’ the court, stage by stage. After they build the fence, they’ll say it’s already up, then they’ll ask to build the loops around the monasteries, because there won’t be any choice.”
Beit Jala Mayor Nicola Khamis has spoken out against the construction. “This is the quietest area, and there are no problems here,” Khamis said Monday. “Today they uprooted 1,500-year-old trees. How they want us to live here in peace, I don’t know.”
The Defense Ministry denies that the new construction defies the court's ruling, saying that the "security fence" is "being carried out in accordance with the latest decisions by the High Court."