According to Israeli government officials, in a context of increased suicide bombings after September 2000, the "seam zone" plan was drafted with the intent of reducing the ability of terrorists to infiltrate Israel from areas administered by the Palestinian Authority. Part of the route was also planned with the stated goal of providing protection from the same threats to Israeli settlers living in "Judea and Samaria". .
As of 2006, it was estimated that about 57,000 Palestinians lived in villages located in enclaves in the seam zone, separated from the rest of the West Bank by the separation barrier. The United Nations estimated that if the series of walls, fences, barbed wire and ditches is completed along its planned route, about a third of West Bank Palestinians will be affected - 274,000 will be located in enclaves in the seam zone and about 400,000 separated from their fields, jobs, schools and hospitals. The Israeli Supreme Court ordered changes to the barrier route to reduce the number of people leaving or affected by the seam zone - according to the court verdict the number now stands at 35,000.
In July 2006, Btselem forecast that 8.5 percent of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) would be situated in the seam zone. This area also contains ninety nine Israeli settlements (including twelve in East Jerusalem) in several densely populated areas near the Green Line - an area that according the Geneva Accord would remain part of Israel as part of a peace agreement and is home to some 381,000 Israelis (192,000 in East Jerusalem).
According to the Israeli officials, the decision to create the zone involved multiple reasons. Among them was, "The need to create a "buffer zone" by distancing the Barrier from the homes of Israelis living nearby, whether they be in communities in Israel or in the settlements." According to the State Attorney's Office, "this buffer zone is vital to strike against terrorists who are liable to cross the Barrier before carrying out their scheme." Another consideration cited is the need to "defend the forces protecting the barrier by running the route in areas that cannot be controlled [topographically] from east of the barrier." It is contended that due to the topography of the area, running the entire Barrier along the Green Line, "would not enable protection of the soldiers patrolling the Barrier, who would find themselves in many cases in a lower topographical position."
Legal structure and permit system
The seam zone is designated as a "closed military zone" by way of a military order, the IDF Order Regarding Security Regulations (Judea and Samaria) (No. 378), 5730-1970, Declaration Concerning Closing an Area no. S/2/03 (Seam Zone), issued on 2 October 2003. The order stipulates that "no person will enter the seam area and no one will remain there". The regulation does not, however, apply to Israelis. For the purposes of the order, an "Israeli" is defined as "a citizen of the State of Israel, a resident of the State of Israel registered in the population registry in accordance with the Population Registry Law and anyone who is eligible to emigrate to Israel in accordance with the Law of Return."
The day prior to the issuing of the military order, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a Cabinet Communique which explained that the establishment of the seam zone was of the "utmost importance," citing also the "strong security need for building a security barrier in the 'seam zone' and in the 'Jerusalem envelope'."
Palestinians who live near the seam zone are allowed to enter and stay if they possess a written permit, tasrich in Arabic, authorizing permanent residence. Palestinians who are not residents of the seam zone can apply for personal permits provided they have a specific reason. Permits must be applied for in advance. There are 12 different categories of personal permits, including for farmers, employees, business owners and employees of the Palestinian Authority. Specific criteria for the acceptance or refusal of personal permits is not outlined in the regulations.
Permit holders must apply for special permission if they wish to travel by automobile, bring in goods or stay overnight in the seam zone. Even those holding permanent or personal permits are limited to crossing the barrier at the single gate specified in the permit. Personal permits granted, including those issued to farmers who wish to access their land, are often only valid for a limited period. Access to the seam zone for permit holders is further limited by the specific operating regimes of the gate in question. Procedures and their opening hours differ from gate to gate and are not always entirely predictable.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), in July 2005, 38% of the applications for a permit were denied. Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups have noted that there is an increasing tendency to grant permits only to registered landowners and their direct descendants. The workforce in the labour-intensive Palestinian agricultural sector is therefore often excluded. Combined with the restrictions faced even by permit holders, there is an increasing tendency for land in the seam zone not to be cultivated. Under Israeli law, land areas not cultivated for three consecutive years can be confiscated and declared "state land". According to the UNOCHA, much of the land in the seam zone has already been declared "state land".
Human rights groups, including those in Israel, have challenged the legality of both the separation barrier and the seam zone under international law. For example, in a petition to Israel's Supreme Court, the Israeli non-governmental organization Hamoked (Center for the Defense of the Individual) stated that,
"the web of the Declaration and the Orders has spun, in the seam zone, a legal apartheid, which is intolerable, illegal and immoral. In other words, the discriminatory and oppressive topographical structure stands upon a shameful normative infrastructure, unprecedented in Israeli law."
Towns and villages in enclaves in the seam zone
As of 2007, there were 38 Palestinian towns and villages in the seam zone.
The following towns and villages fall in enclaves located west of the separation barrier and east of the Green Line:
- Barta'a enclave: Includes Barta'a Sharqiya, Umm Rihan, Khirbet 'Abdallah al-Yunis, Khirbet Ash-Sheikh Sa'eed, Khirbet al-Muntar al-Gharbiya, Khirbet al-Muntar ash-Sharqiyya, and Dhaher al-Malik
- Baqa ash-Sharqiyya enclave: also includes Nazlat Issa and Nazlat Abu Nar
- Khirbet Jabara enclave
- Qalqilya enclave
- Enclave of Ras Tira, Dab'a, Wad Rasha and Arab a-Ramadeen
- Azzun Atme enclave
Towns and villages located in the Seam Zone in areas extending east of the separation barrier include:
- Enclave of Rumane, Taybeh and Anin
- Tulkarm enclave: also includes Tulkarm camp, Nur Shams camp, Iktaba, Dhinnaba, Far'un, Kafa, and Shufa
- Qalqilya enclave
- Enclave of Hable, Ras Atiya and Izbat Jalud
Israeli cities and villages in the seam zone
As of 2006, there were 99 Israeli settlements located in the seam zone, including:
- ↑ Human Rights Watch (HRW) (10 March 2005). "Human rights concerns for the 61st Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights". http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWB.NSF/db900SID/RMOI-6AD82D?OpenDocument. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Margarat Evans (6 January 2006). "Indepth Middle East:Israel's Barrier". CBC. http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/middleeast/israel_barrier.html. Retrieved 2007-05-11.
- ↑ "Separation Barrier: 9 July 2006: Two Years after the ICJ's Decision on the Separation Barrier". B'tselem. 9 July 2006. http://www.btselem.org/english/separation_barrier/20060709_Hague_2nd_anniversary.asp. Retrieved 2007-05-11.
- ↑ Under the Guise of Security: Routing the Separation Barrier to Enable Israeli Settlement Expansion in the West Bank. B'Tselem - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.
- ↑ HCJ 4825/04, Muhammad Khaled 'Alian et al. v. The Prime Minister et al., Response, Section 469, section 64
- ↑ International Court of Justice - Legal consequences of the construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory - Written Statement submitted by Palestine, 30 January 2004, p. 364.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 "Israel's Separation Barrier:Challenges to the Rule of Law and Human Rights: Executive Summary Part I and II". International Commission of Jurists. 6 July 2004. http://www.icj.org/news.php3?id_article=3410&lang=en&print=true. Retrieved 2007-05-11.
- ↑ "Cabinet Communique". 1 October 2003. http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Communiques/2003/Cabinet+Communique+-+1-Oct-2003.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-31.
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Jabarin et al. (8 July 2006). "The Wall in the West Bank". Palestine Center for Human Rights (PCHR). http://www.pchrgaza.ps/Interventions/ICJ%20AO%20intervention%208%20July%202006.pdf. Retrieved 2007-05-11.
- ↑ HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual. "Petition for Order Nisi and Interlocutory Order". http://www.hamoked.org.il/items/3820_eng.pdf. Retrieved 2007-08-31.
- ↑ Movement and Access Restrictions on the West Bank. World Bank Technical Team. May 9, 2007.
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 The Impact of the First Phase of Barrier on UNRWA-Registered Refugees. UNRWA.
- ↑ The Ultimate Barrier: Impact of the Wall on the Palestinian health care system. Medecins du Monde report February 14, 2005)
- ↑ "More Housing Units : New Tenders in Israeli West Bank Settlements". ARIJ (Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem). 4 October 2006. http://www.poica.org/editor/case_studies/view.php?recordID=918. Retrieved 2007-07-13.
- Displaced by the Wall: Forced Displacement as a Result of the West Bank Wall and its Associated Regime, Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights and The Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, September 2006.
- A study by Terry Rempel on Palestinan Refugees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for ForcedMigration.org
- Israeli Ministry of Defense website on the Israel Security Fence
- Amira Hass article on how Palestinians are now 'illegal residents'da:Israels separationszone