December 31, 2004 in Nation/World

Barrier to put 17,000 Palestinians on Israeli side

Associated Press
 

JERUSALEM – A section of Israel’s West Bank separation barrier will leave 17,000 Palestinians on the Israeli side, hampering their access to the West Bank, settler and security officials said Thursday.

The barrier will encompass the Etzion settlement bloc in the southern West Bank, as originally planned – despite a Supreme Court ruling to move the route closer to the “Green Line” 1949 border, said Shaul Goldstein, the Etzion bloc council head.

However, in one change introduced since the court ruling, four Palestinian villages near the Etzion bloc will no longer be completely encircled by the barrier, said Goldstein.

Goldstein said the army consulted with the settlers on the route. He said the settlers asked not to encircle the villages because it would create additional animosity. “At the moment we have some kind of coexistence,” Goldstein said.

A senior security official said the Defense Ministry was in talks with the attorney general to try to reduce hardship to the Palestinians.

Military planners suggested putting extra checkpoints into the barrier to allow Palestinians to reach their farmland and schools, the official said.

Israel began building the obstacle to stop a wave of Palestinian suicide bombers who were infiltrating unhindered from the West Bank.

The barrier, a complex of walls, fences, trenches, barbed wire and electronic devices, still under construction, in parts roughly follows the “Green Line” that divided Israel from the West Bank until 1967, when Israel captured the territory. However, in other areas, the barrier dips deeper into the West Bank to encompass Jewish settlements.

Palestinians say the barrier is an attempt to grab land they claim for a future state and say if the Israelis want to build a wall, they should keep it on their own side of the Green Line.

In July, the U.N. World Court ruled that the structure is illegal and must be dismantled. Israel ignored the advisory ruling.

The barrier, expected to run about 425 miles, is about one-third complete.

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