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Israel publishes map of planned barrier
( 2003-10-25 14:56) (Agencies)

For the first time, Israel published a detailed map Friday of its planned security barrier, which would encircle tens of thousands of Palestinians, cutting them off from the rest of the West Bank, while keeping about 80 percent of Jewish settlers on the Israeli side of the fence.

Palestinians walk next to the wall near the Palestinian West Bank village of Masha, part of a combination of fences, razor wires and trenches that Israel is building between Israel and the Palestinian territories Thursday Oct. 23, 2003. Israel says it is building it to keep out Palestinian suicide bombers and gunmen. The Palestinians say Israel is grabbing land, unilaterally drawing a border and making it impossible to establish a viable Palestinian state. [Reuters]
The fence's snaking path, sloping from flat land up into mountains, cuts deep into the West Bank and will likely enflame already fierce international opposition.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the military also was planning a final section of the barrier in the eastern area of the West Bank and would soon present it to the Cabinet. That section, which would cut Palestinians off from the Jordan Valley, would likely pass a few miles from the Jordan River, he said in a TV interview.

"The route is being planned now. The moment it will be completed, it will be presented to the government," Sharon said.

Palestinians are strongly opposed to the barrier, saying Israel is using it to create a de facto border that infringes on West Bank land they claim for a future state. Israel says the barrier is intended to keep Palestinian militants from entering the country to carry out attacks.

Early Friday, two Islamic militants cut through a fence around the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in the Gaza Strip and broke into the barracks of soldiers guarding the area. They went from room to room shooting sleeping soldiers, killing three and wounding two, according to the army and media reports.

Troops shot and killed one Palestinian, who was armed with an assault rifle, but failed to find the second attacker, the army said.

The militant group Hamas later released surveillance video of Netzarim taken before the attack, suggesting an increase in the militant group's ability to plan and carry out such raids.

The video, several minutes long and apparently shot from far away, showed the settlements' red-roofed houses, an army truck and a station wagon driving on roads inside and a person riding a bicycle. The video also showed the two attackers practicing throwing grenades and shooting at a plastic soda bottle.

The face of the Islamic Jihad attacker, who escaped, was blurred in the video to protect his identity. Militants identified the dead attacker as Samir Fouda, 21, a Hamas militant from Gaza.

Gaza is surrounded by a security fence of its own, and none of the more than 100 suicide bombers who have attacked Israelis over the past three years made it past the fence. Israel says it is seeking to replicate that success with the West Bank barrier and has already built 90 miles of fences, walls and trenches around the northern part of that territory.

But where that section hugs fairly close to the border before the 1967 Middle East war dipping slightly into the West Bank to include Jewish settlements the new section would extend deep into the West Bank.

The map of the new section outlined a series of double fences in some areas to protect Israel's international airport from rocket attacks and a planned ringed road around Jerusalem.

Those barriers will surround several West Bank towns, including Qibya, Beit Sira and Bir Nabala, isolating an estimated 70,000 Palestinians, according to some Israeli officials.

Defense Ministry spokeswoman Rachel Niedek-Ashkenazi said defense officials had not finished their estimate of how many Palestinians would be affected, but said 70,000 was much higher than their current assessments.

Opponents of the fence accuse Sharon of using it to grab West Bank land and isolate the Palestinians.

"This fence allows Sharon to realize his dreams, to divide up the Palestinian population into small groups, a cantonization," said Dror Etkes of the Israeli group Peace Now.

The new section of the fence would put 80 percent of Jewish settlers on the Israeli side, security sources said.

It would take two more years to complete the fence, and cost another US$230 million, said Amos Yaron, director general of the Defense Ministry.

The fence also would contain several unconnected sections around settlements, including Ariel, a community of 18,000 Israelis some 15 miles inside the West Bank.

This is to allay U.S. fears the barrier would limit Palestinians' freedom of movement and would unilaterally define the border of a future Palestinian state. The United States has said it opposes extending the barrier deep into the West Bank, and the United Nations on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a resolution demanding Israel tear it down.

Palestinians say the barrier sabotages any effort to create a viable Palestinian state.

"This wall will create a new fact on the ground, which will make it impossible to reach any political solution," said Hassan Abu Libdeh, a spokesman for Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia.

Yaron said the fence was designed to keep as many Israelis as possible on the Israel side.

The government had earlier released details on the 90 miles of constructed barrier, but Friday was the first time it published a map showing the route of the proposed sections.

Also Friday, Palestinian doctors said an 11-year-old Palestinian died after being wounded by Israeli gunshots near his Gaza home. Elsewhere in Gaza, a 10-year-old boy was hospitalized after being shot in the stomach. The army said it did not know of the shootings.

In northern Gaza, soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian who approached the fence of another settlement, the military said.

Two Palestinian men died of wounds from an Israeli missile strike Monday in a Gaza refugee camp, bringing the death toll from the attack to 10. And a 15-year-old Palestinian died of wounds from a battle last week between Israeli troops and gunmen in southern Gaza.

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