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Israeli separation barrier construction speeded up

Construction of Israeli separation barrier has speeded up, Security Council told

Israel has quickened the pace of erecting its separation barrier between itself and Palestinian territories, dividing Palestinian communities and families and threatening to seal off Jerusalem from the West Bank, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today.

"Over the last month the speed of construction has accelerated," Kieran Prendergast, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the Security Council in his monthly briefing on the Middle East. "Palestinians along the barrier's route face land loss and severely restricted access to jobs, markets and essential social services…We repeat our call to the Israeli authorities to halt construction of the wall."

Yesterday the UN General Assembly reconvened an emergency session on the Middle East to consider the barrier's construction as well as two draft resolutions on the question. One, similar to a version already vetoed by the United States in the Security Council, would have the Assembly say the construction was illegal. The other draft proposed asking the International Court of Justice in The Hague for an advisory opinion on whether Israel should cease construction of the barrier and dismantle the portions it has already built.

A recent report from the three co-chairs of a Local Aid Coordination Committee said that around East Jerusalem the barrier "affects tens of thousands of Palestinians as it divide communities and families and threatens to seal Jerusalem off from the rest of the West Bank," Mr. Prendergast said in his Council briefing. He named the co-chairs as the World Bank, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) and Norway.

Earlier this month, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) had issued an order on the areas between the barrier and the Green Line specifying that "people aged 12 years and older who resided in these areas before the military order was issued must now have entry permits to continue doing so. Free access will be granted only to Israelis," Mr. Prendergast said.

"This order marks an unacceptable deepening of restrictions against Palestinians caught between the Barrier and the Green Line."

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