Israel proceeded with the building of the controversial wall in Cremisan valley near Bethlehem following a rule in July by the Israeli High Court which approved construction.
The wall lies between the settlement of Gilo in annexed East Jerusalem, and the smaller West Bank settlement of Har Gilo, a few kilometers to the southwest.
Palestinian critics argue that its real purpose is to allow further illegal settlement expansion separating them from their own land, rather than to increase security measures.
Olive trees have been uprooted to make more ground available for construction.
Israeli bulldozers razed an area of 30 dunams near Beit Jala for the expansion of the wall, witnesses told official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
Giat Nasser, a lawyer who represents the Beit Jala municipality and the landowners, told Haaretz that “they apparently haven’t reconciled themselves to the ruling. What they’re doing is ‘feeding’ the court, stage by stage. After they build the fence they’ll say it’s already up, then they’ll ask to build the loops around the monasteries, because there won’t be any choice.”
The planned wall route will run through the Cremisan valley on land owned by 58 Christian Palestinian families, close to a monastery and its sister convent and school, which has been opposed by local Christian leaders and the Vatican.
In April, its construction had been held up when Israel’s high court ordered the defence ministry to reconsider the route, but a subsequent ruling followed in July giving it the green light.
The Israeli defence ministry had intended to push forward with the plans for some time now.
The initial plan was to build the wall separating the Salesian Monastery from its sister convent and school but now it appears that the proposed wall will be built around the buildings, excluding a section of the wall that would run between the buildings.
The updated version of the construction is only on the latest section of the wall, which Israel began building in 2002.
Palestinian residents of Beit Jala have been engaged in a nine-year legal battle against a 2006 Israeli military order to build the separation wall around Beit Jala and Har Gilo.
In 2013, 58 local landowners - along with nuns from the Salesian Convent who joined their legal action - lost an appeal against the path of the wall.
An Israeli Supreme Court decision in 2014 - which ordered an advisory opinion of the Israeli state to justify the route of the separation wall in Beit Jala's Cremisan valley - was a satisfying indication that the proposed land seizure could be canceled, with a ruling in April this year in favor of a petition by locals creating further hope that plans for the wall could be suspended.
The wall will be approximately 708 kilometers long after completion - which is nearly twice the length of the 1949 Armistice Line due to its meandering route - and 85 percent of the wall will be occupying West Bank territories, according to UNOCHA.