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Monday, September 06, 2004

JapanToday > Israel begins new barrier construction

Monday, September 6, 2004 at 07:38 JST
JERUSALEM — Israel began building a new section of its separation barrier in the southern West Bank on Sunday, days after two Palestinian suicide bombers from the area carried out the deadliest attack in nearly a year.
It was the first construction on the barrier in the southern part of the territory, and it revived Palestinian condemnations of the project. The 680-km barrier is about one-third complete, all of it in the northern or central West Bank.
Israeli officials said the timing of the construction was unrelated to last week's suicide bombing in Beersheba, which killed 16 people. But they conceded that the attack, and a public outcry that followed, made construction more urgent.
The separation barrier and Gaza withdrawal are the cornerstones of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's "disengagement" plan, meant to separate Israelis and Palestinians after four years of violence.
Israel says the barrier is needed to block Palestinian militants from reaching its towns and cities. Palestinians say the structure has caused extreme hardship for tens of thousands of Palestinians by cutting them off from their farmland and services.
The barrier has also drawn widespread international condemnation, and construction has been delayed by a string of legal setbacks. The U.N. world court issued an advisory opinion in July calling the barrier illegal, and the Israeli Supreme Court has ordered the government to redraw the route to ease up on the Palestinians.
The original route of the barrier dipped far into the West Bank, which Israel captured in 1967, in several sections. Amid the mounting criticism, Israel has moved the route much closer to the "Green Line," the cease-fire line dividing the West Bank and Israel.
Last week's bombing put pressure on the government to speed construction. The barrier hasn't yet reached the Beersheba area, across from the southern edge of the West Bank. The bombers came from Hebron, the main West Bank city in that section.
Israel is also stepping up army patrols in the southern West Bank following the bombing. (Wire reports)
http://www.japantoday .com/e/?content=news&id =311172



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