The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Monday opened its hearings on the legality of the West Bank fence Israel is building. The Court has decided to provide video coverage of its hearings on the Internet.
Opening the debate, the Palestinian permanent observer to the United Nations signalled the view that a ruling against Israel's West Bank barrier could pave the way for international sanctions against Israel.
Nasser al-Kidwa, the Palestinians' U.N. permanent observer, said he hoped a non-binding ruling by the court could lead to the same kind of international action that followed the court's 1971 opinion that South Africa's occupation of Namibia was illegal.
He told the 15-justice panel on Monday that the fence, if completed, would leave Palestinians isolated in enclaves in only half of the West Bank.
Palestinian leader Arafat, speaking on live television less than an hour before the ICJ was to hear arguments on legality of the so-called fence, said that there will never be peace and security so long as the fence stands, and called on Palestinians and "forces of peace in Israel" to make their voices heard in protest aginst "this wall of expansion and annexation."
"This is another 'Berlin Wall' that is being erected in our country ... The objective of erecting this wall is to prevent our people from establishing their independent Palestinian state ... alongside of Israel."
"No security and no peace can ever prevail between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, and even in the whole region, with this wall," he added, which he described as the "climax of the Palestinian catastrophe in 1948, when the Jewish state was created".
In the meantime, protest marches against the barrier were held across the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Dozens of Palestinian protestors were wounded Monday in clashes with Israeli soldiers in Dir al Ghusan, near Tulkarem.
Some 2,000 protestors were staging a demonstration against the construction of the fence. The majority of the casualties were injured as a result of tear gas inhalation.
Elsewhere, several dozen Israeli demonstrators were protesting on the "Israeli side" of the fence in Abu Dis. The protestors, who support the construction of the wall, sang the Israeli national anthem "The Hope" and lined up in the skeleton of the bus, destroyed in the Jerusalem attack Sunday.
From the other side of the wall, several hundred Palestinians were holding demonstrations against the so-called separation fence.
In Jerusalem, meanwhile, Gush Shalom [Peace Bloc] was to demonstrate against Israel’s Apartheid Wall, together with other Israeli peace movements, at the Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s residence.
The address, delivered just before the Hague World Court was to convene to weigh the legality of the barrier, was carried live on Palestinian television and radio and beamed worldwide.
Reading from a prepared text in his Ramallah compound, the Palestinian leader said that the barrier, which he termed "this apartheid wall," would not bring Israel peace and security.
Arafat urged all peace-loving forces to move on the ground, in world capitals and in The Hague to highlight the racist and tragic truth of the Apartheid Wall that Israel is building on occupied Palestinian territory.
The Wall will confiscate 58 percent of the area of the West Bank when completed, Arafat explained. Israel’s Apartheid Wall has turned Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps into jails, the Palestinian president added.
In the meantime, also Monday, the US-based Human Rights Watch [HRW] joined mounting world condemnation of the Wall as a "serious violation" of the Geneva Conventions and international law and a blatant attempt to consolidate illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.
The Wall "entails serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law," the international group said in a briefing paper released just hours before the International Court of Justice began debating the legality of the Wall.
"Israel’s separation barrier seriously impedes Palestinian access to essentials of civilian life, such as work, education and medical care," said Joe Stork, acting head of the group’s Middle East and North Africa division.
By confining over 100,000 civilians inside enclaves, which are regulated by a highly-complex regime of permits, the Wall will "institutionalize a system in which all movement for large numbers of people is sharply curtailed," thereby endangering access to basic services, the group said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Amnesty International and the World Council of Churches expressed similar objections to the Wall and released similar statements last week. (Albawaba.com)
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