[JURIST] Israel has begun to reroute a segment of its West Bank security barrier [official website; JURIST news archive], said Ministry of Defense [official website, in Hebrew] spokesperson Shlomo Dror on Thursday. The modifications, which may not be completed until the end of the year, will shift the controversial barrier's path several hundred yards west [AFP report] of its current location near Bilin, and will return more than 800,000 square yards [JTA report] of land to Palestinian farmers. The move comes more than two years after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that the government must change the route because it excessively encroached on Palestinian territory and infringed on residents' rights to access fields and orchards blocked by the barrier.
The contested portion in Bilin is just 500 acres of a 410-mile wall along the West Bank border, which Israel began to construct in 2002 to keep suicide bombers from entering Israeli territory. The barrier has been denounced by Palestinians as a land grab that has broken up communities and families, but Israeli officials insist it is necessary to prevent terrorist attacks. In 2006, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered Israel to dismantle another section of the wall in the northern West Bank, but Israeli courts have also rejected [JURIST reports] petitions by Palestinians when security concerns outweighed the Palestinians' objections. In 2004, the International Court of Justice [official website] issued a non-binding advisory opinion [text; JURIST report] that parts of the wall should be torn down.