In Context

The Israeli government began building a barrier in and around the West Bank in 2002 in reaction to a wave of suicide bombings by Palestinian militants that began in 2000. The project has been controversial from its inception. There has even been a heated debate over what to call the barrier--Israeli officials describe it as a fence, while critics often insist that it is a wall. The barrier, which runs more than 420 miles, is composed of different sections. Some parts, located in populated areas, consist of concrete slabs 26 feet high, with watchtowers occupied by border guards. In more isolated areas, the barrier consists of multiple rows of fencing with ditches and surveillance cameras; guards patrol these sections in vehicles.

Construction of the barrier prompted outcries within Israel and the Palestinian territories, as well as abroad. One point of contention was that the wall incorporated territory that had been part of the West Bank when it was occupied by Jordan prior to the Six-Day War in 1967. During that war, Israel seized control of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights. In June 2004, the Israeli Supreme Court deemed the barrier itself permissible, but also ruled that sections of it should be rerouted to accommodate Palestinian populations. In July 2004, the International Court of Justice in the Hague issued an advisory opinion that the barrier violated international law because it was built partly on Palestinian land.

As of May 2013, approximately two thirds of the 700-kilometer (435-mile) barrier had been built.

» Associated Press. "No War Crimes Charges for West Bank Separation Barrier Firm."
» Bard, Mitchell. "Israel's Security Fence." Jewish Virtual Library, July 8, 2010.
» BBC News. "Guide to the West Bank Barrier."
» Cohen, Roger. "The World: Israel's Wall; Building for Calm by Giving Up on Peace." The New York Times, July 18, 2004.
» The Washington Post. "Country Guide: Israel."
» Wide Angle. "The World's Most Complex Borders: Israel/West Bank."