Geneva - In a rare departure from its traditional neutrality, the
international Red Cross on Wednesday said that the security barrier
that Israel is building in the West Bank was contrary to
humanitarian law, and should not be built.
"The ICRC's opinion is that the West Bank Barrier, in as far as its
route deviates from the 'Green Line' into occupied territory, is
contrary to IHL (International humanitarian law)," the International
Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement issued less than a
week before a UN court in The Hague is due to examine the legality
of the barrier.
"The ICRC therefore calls upon Israel not to plan, construct or
maintain this barrier within occupied territory" as this would have
serious humanitarian and economic consequences for thousands of
The ICRC, which guarantees the Geneva Conventions on the rules of
war, generally seeks to remain neutral, and rarely expresses an
opinion on issues directly linked to the policies of states. It
based Wednesday's statement on Israel's responsibility as an
"The Barrier deprives thousands of Palestinian residents of adequate
access to basic services such as water, health care and education,
as well as sources of income such as agriculture and other forms of
employment" where it deviates from the so-called Green Line into
occupied territory, the statement said.
The Green Line between Israel and the West Bank marks the armistice
lines at the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
The statement by the ICRC was the first time the Red Cross had
condemned the barrier, which variously consists of lengths of razor
wire, electronic fencing, concrete and ditches.
The Red Cross said that "Palestinian communities situated between
the 'Green Line' and the Barrier are effectively cut off from the
Palestinian society to which they belong."
More than 200 000 Palestinians are already suffering the
humanitarian consequences of the separation barrier, according to
the United Nations.
The 180km segment completed so far has cut off villages from
markets, medical services and schools in the northern West Bank.
The barrier is expected to stretch more than 700km by the time it is
completed at the end of next year.
The International Court of Justice, often referred to as the world
court, is due to begin sitting on the legality of the separation
barrier from next Monday but Israel has decided to boycott the
hearing by not sending any legal representatives to The Hague.
Edited by Anthea Jonathan