New Section of Separation Fence to Slice Through Judean Desert

Construction of the separation fence in the Judean Desert will start in the coming weeks, the defense establishment announced yesterday.

The southern section of the fence between Israel and the West Bank will begin east of the Hebron Hills, where the barrier currently ends. The fence will likely obstruct the view in the desert and is expected to negatively impact the area's ecosystem - most of which has been classified as a nature reserve - by blocking the paths of the wild animals in the desert.

The defense establishment said it had given much consideration during construction planning to the possible impacts on the landscape and the ecosystem.

The Nature and Parks Authority had previously raised concern about these impacts and suggested enforcing the desert with Israel Defense Forces soldiers and electronic tracking systems rather than constructing the fence in the region.

Certain sections of the fence to be erected in the Judean hills are expected to have far-reaching consequences on the scenic view, particularly near the villages of Walja and Batir south of Jerusalem, areas known for their traditional agricultural preserves.

The Jerusalem municipality, which feared the fence would have a detrimental impact on its proposed intention to build a new residential neighborhood nearby, took part in the planning for the fence's construction in the Walja region.

Defense officials agreed the fence in the region be built on supporting structures so they would take the form of terraces, yet the construction would still inflict direct damage on agricultural sections and springs adjacent to the village.

In the Batir region, the government instructed defense officials to push the fence further away from the homes in the village towards the direction of the railway tracks on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem line.

In such an instance, the fence would nonetheless penetrate deep into the village's agricultural plots of land.

With regards to the route of the fence in the Beit Ichsa region west of Jerusalem - which the government recently decided to alter due to security considerations - defense officials now say they are studying alternative routes.

Aside from defense needs, officials are also taking into account the desire to minimize the interference in Palestinians' freedom of movement, lessen the damage to Palestinian property and the need to preserve the natural scenery.