The United Nations has criticized Israel's controversial separation barrier in the West Bank. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, Israel has rejected the report, saying the fence is vital to national security.
A U.N. report found that most of the 30,000 West Bank farmers whose land has been cut off by Israel's separation barrier are unable to get to their fields. It said only 18 percent of these Palestinian farmers have been able to obtain Israeli permits to cross the border and reach their farms. The report, by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said many Palestinians stopped seeking permits because their applications were rejected in the past.
The U.N. also cited other hardships caused by the fence, such as the difficulty of reaching hospitals and medical clinics.
Palestinian analyst Mahdi Abdul Hadi, who has studied the impact of the barrier, tells VOA that the situation is going from bad to worse.
"For the Palestinians, the wall has been like a sharp knife slicing our flesh," he said. "For the Israelis, they don't care where you live as long as you are behind the wall," he said. "They don't want to see. They don't want to care, even if you are living in slums."
Israel began constructing the barrier in 2002, after dozens of Palestinian suicide bombings.
Israeli spokesman Mark Regev says the report is one-sided, because it does not take Israel's security situation into account.
"The barrier has been an extremely effective tool in preventing suicide bombers coming into Israel and murdering our people," he said.
Israel has ignored a 2004 decision by the World Court in The Hague, which ruled that the barrier is illegal and should be torn down. Some 60 percent of the structure has already been built, mostly in the northern West Bank and around Jerusalem.
By the time the barrier is completed, Israel will have effectively annexed about 9 percent of the West Bank, according to U.N. figures. Palestinians say the barrier is not a security issue, but a land grab.