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Posted by Jeff from ( on Sunday, June 16, 2002 at 10:23AM :

As if a fence separating two peoples will solve anything? What about the million Palestinians in Israel, and the 200,000 Israelis in the west bank??

Israel Inaugurates West Bank Fence Project
Sun Jun 16, 8:21 AM ET

By Matt Spetalnick

SALEM CHECKPOINT, West Bank (Reuters) - Israel inaugurated a project for a security fence along its porous West Bank frontier on Sunday, despite right-wingers' fears it would set a border and weaken their claims to occupied land.

Mideast Conflict
Bulldozers have been at work for several days near the army's Salem checkpoint in the northern West Bank, leveling the ground for the first section of the 70-mile fence aimed at stopping Palestinian suicide bombers from reaching Israel.

Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat accused Israel of seeking to divide Palestinian territories into small cantons and "start a new apartheid system which is worse than what happened in South Africa."

With Israeli flags fluttering and armor parked nearby, Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer toured the fence construction site in what was billed by the government as the official launch of the $220 million project.

On another front, Palestinian militants in Gaza killed two Israeli soldiers in a clash on Saturday. One gunman from the militant Islamic group Hamas was killed.

On Sunday, Israeli soldiers shot dead one of three Palestinians who tried to circumvent an army roadblock near Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley in the West Bank.

"The soldiers called to them to stop and when they did not, gave chase," an army spokesman said. Two of the Palestinians were arrested, and the third, carrying a large suspicious bag, was shot after ignoring warning shots and shouts, he added.

As violence continued, Israel and the Palestinian Authority ( news - web sites) awaited word from Washington on a new path for Middle East peace, based on a two-state solution, that President Bush ( news - web sites) is preparing after consultations with regional leaders. Amos Yaron, director-general of the Israeli Defense Ministry, said the security barrier, expected to be an electrified chain-link fence with motion detectors and adjacent patrol roads, would cost $1 million per kilometer to build.

"It will provide a defensive answer to the...infiltration of terrorists from Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) into communities in Israel," he told Israel Radio.


But cabinet minister Yitzhak Levy of the National Religious Party, a right-wing champion of Jewish settlement on land Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war, called the barrier "a political fence" that could set a de facto border.

Yaron said the fence would not trace the so-called Green Line, or pre-1967 border, but would be part of a three-to-nine mile-wide "seam" straddling the frontier.

The barrier will have little impact on the security of some 200,000 Jewish settlers living inside the West Bank who claim a biblical right to territory on which the Palestinians want to establish a state.

The fence is part of a plan to set up buffer zones, barricades, observation equipment and obstacle courses to divide Israel from the West Bank after the most devastating wave of Palestinian bombings the country has ever experienced.

It could have a strong economic impact on Palestinian laborers who now slip across the border before dawn to work illegally in Israel.


Avi Dichter, head of the Shin Bet security service, recently told a parliamentary committee that militants in the Gaza Strip ( news - web sites), where a fence is already in place, had not succeeded in carrying out suicide bombings in Israel.

Hamas official Mahmoud a-Zahar vowed the fence would not stop the group's fighters in the West Bank reaching Israel.

"This is our land and we know it very well," he told Reuters.

In the Gaza clash, soldiers and Palestinian gunmen exchanged fire near the Jewish settlement of Dugit during a search for militants who planted a car bomb carrying mortar rounds and launchers and more than 330 pounds of explosives.

"There are two dead soldiers and four wounded near Dugit," an Israeli army spokeswoman said on Sunday. The body of one Palestinian gunman was brought to a Gaza hospital.

An army commander in Gaza told Reuters the militants had planned to lure soldiers to the booby-trapped car by firing mortars from the vehicle and then detonating explosives when troops came to search the area.

At least 1,398 Palestinians and 511 Israelis have been killed since a Palestinian uprising for independence began after peace talks stalled.

-- Jeff
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