JERUSALEM—Israel`s High Court on Thursday ruled in favor of a petition by local Palestinians in Beit Jala against building the separation wall in the Cremisan Valley area, ending a nine year legal battle against the annexation of local land.
Fifty-eight landowners, together with a Salesian convent and monastery, have battled for nine years against a 2006 Israeli military order to build the separation wall around Beit Jala and the illegal Gilo settlement.
The planned route would have confiscated around 3,000 dunams of private land as well as Vatican church land owned by the Salesian monasteries.
The wall would have also separated the two monasteries from each other and the local community, and a school in the area would be situated in a military zone surrounded by the separation wall.
The court also ruled that an alternative route whereby the monasteries would be connected by a gate in the wall was problematic.
Israel`s military will now have to consider alternatives which cause less harm to local Palestinians and will have to issue a new military order for future construction, which locals can also appeal.
The Cremisan Valley lies between the sprawling settlement of Gilo in annexed East Jerusalem, and the smaller West Bank settlement of Har Gilo, a few kilometers to the southwest.
Palestinians have long argued the the separation wall in Cremisan had no security benefit for Israel and was being constructed to annex land and connect illegal settlements in the area.
During a visit last year to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, Pope Francis prayed at a section of the barrier not far from Cremisan, his brow pressed against the graffiti-covered wall.
In January, the High Court announced that the defence ministry had dropped a plan to run the barrier through the Palestinian village of Battir, known for its ancient Roman irrigation system and agricultural terraces that are still cultivated today.
It was granted UNESCO endangered World Heritage status last June.
UN figures show that Israel has already built around two-thirds of the barrier. The network of towering concrete walls, barbed-wire fences, trenches and closed military roads will extend 712 kilometers when completed, separating the West Bank from Israel.
AFP contributed to this report
For complete review of the case, link to Society of St. Yves
Photo: View of Cremisan Valley. Source: BBC News.