Israel to build fence around Jerusalem
* Israel to dismantle 24 West Bank outposts
JERUSALAM: Israel plans to build a temporary fence separating Jerusalem from the West Bank by July, leaving the structure in place while legal challenges to a permanent barrier play out in court, Israel’s military chief said on Sunday.
The announcement by Lt Gen Moshe Yaalon threatened to ignite a new controversy over the barrier project. Israel says the structure is needed to protect its cities from suicide bombers. But the Palestinians criticize the barrier, which juts into the West Bank, as an illegal confiscation of land they claim for an independent state.
The planned construction around Jerusalem has been especially sensitive. Traditionally Arab east Jerusalem is a commercial center for the Palestinians, and completing the barrier would prevent thousands of people in the West Bank from reaching jobs, public services and holy sites in the city.
Although Israel recently completed plans for the barrier, the route in the Jerusalem area remains in dispute due to legal challenges filed by Israeli and Palestinian residents of border villages.
Yaalon said the army plans to build a temporary barrier in disputed area around Jerusalem while the courts consider the cases.
“The plan is to construct by July an improvised barrier, a temporary one, in those areas where a permanent one cannot be built at the moment, mainly because of legal reasons,” he told Army Radio after meeting Jerusalem’s mayor. “We will establish fences in certain areas, patrol roads ... until the legal proceedings are completed.”
The Israeli government decided on Sunday to dismantle all settlement outposts which have sprung up in the West Bank since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon came to power in March 2001, public radio said. The move will see 24 settlements uprooted among the 105 wildcat outposts in the West Bank detailed by a recent report commissioned by Sharon.
Earlier Sunday, the Sharon cabinet announced a ministerial review in the wake of the damaging report, amid US calls for all settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territories to cease.
Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas condemned attacks against Israel and reiterated his determination to crush violence in an interview broadcast on Israeli public television on Sunday. The participation of Hamas militants sworn to destroying Israel in Palestinian elections could pose problems for any eventual Middle East peace negotiations, Israeli officials said on Sunday. Hamas announced on Saturday it would compete in this July’s parliamentary vote, a step welcomed by Abbas, who is trying to get the Islamic group to agree a formal ceasefire and join the political mainstream.
Eight people were wounded on Sunday in a punch-up between rival groups of students from the Fatah and Hamas factions at Hebron University in the southern West Bank, a photographer said. agencies