Israel's High Court Orders State to Find Alternative to Separation Fence at West Bank Village

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The state must come up with an alternative to constructing the separation fence near Battir in order to prevent damage to the West Bank village's ancient agricultural terraces, the High Court of Justice said in a provisional ruling Thursday.

The court dealt with two petitions regarding construction of the separation fence near Battir on Thursday, filed by Friends of the Earth Middle East and by Battir villagers. The petitioners warned of the damage the fence would cause the unique agricultural terraces and the traditional farming methods.

Battir's 5,000 residents own about 3,000 dunams on the Israeli side of the Green Line. The villagers said in their petition that the fence's construction threatens the ancient terraced landscape and violates a historic agreement made after the 1948 war that allowed the villagers to continue farming their land.

The three-justice panel, headed by Supreme Court President Asher Grunis, issued a provisional ruling giving the state 90 days to reexamine the fence's construction and the security arrangements, and then propose an alternative to the problematic section of fence.

Gidon Bromberg, director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, commended the court's ruling. "We're pleased the court urged the Defense Ministry to reconsider the security options to form a balance of interests combining the protection of Battir's terraces and a security alternative."

The terraces at Battir are considered both the oldest and the largest in the Judean Hills, and are likely to be recognized as both a natural and a human heritage site.Credit: Michal Fattal

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