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Court freezes construction of Israeli barrier

Associated Press


JERUSALEM  -- Israel's Supreme Court has imposed an open-ended freeze on construction of a 15-mile section of the country's contentious West Bank separation barrier, a lawyer in the case said today.

The court issued its order Wednesday in response to a complaint by Palestinian and Israeli opponents of the barrier, said their lawyer, Mohammed Dahla.

The opponents say the planned route of the barrier, which Israel says is needed to block suicide bombers, will severely disrupt the lives of 30,000 Palestinians living in the area.

Dahla said he had submitted a report by an outside group of former Israeli military officials questioning the planned route. The report claims the current route goes far beyond security considerations, and that a less-intrusive path would be equally effective at protecting Israelis, he said.

The court ordered the Israeli military to respond to the report, and extended a freeze first imposed on Feb. 29 until it hears back from the army, Dahla said. The court did not schedule another hearing on the matter, he added.  World Peace 

Defense Ministry and court officials did not immediately respond to interview requests.

"I think it's a victory," Dahla said. "I think the Supreme Court in a way has started not to believe the story that is being told by the army. I think the doubt is there. The wall is not only about security."

The order affects an area around eight Palestinian villages northwest of Jerusalem. About 30 residents of the nearby Israeli town of Mevasseret Zion have also joined the challenge. The court case follows a bloody protest in the area last month in which Israeli troops killed two Palestinian protesters.

Israel says it needs the barrier of razor wire, concrete walls and trenches to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from entering its towns and cities.

But the barrier dips deep into the West Bank in some areas, and Palestinians say it is a land grab meant to prevent them from establishing a state. In some cases, the barrier isolates Palestinians, making it difficult for them to travel between towns and villages, and even reach their farms.

The barrier faces a series of legal challenges in the Supreme Court. In a separate case, filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the court on Wednesday imposed a temporary halt to construction of sections of the barrier near the Palestinian villages of Deir Qiddis and Ni'lin, near the Israeli city of Modiin, the group said.

ACRI spokesman Yoav Loeff said the barrier would separate village residents from farms, result in large land expropriations, and hinder villagers from moving around the West Bank. He said the government had agreed to change the route in Ni'lin, while the court was seeking more information on the Deir Qiddis case.

A hearing on the matter is expected next week, Loeff said.  WorldPeace

The Palestinians are also leading a challenge to the legality of the barrier at the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands.


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