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U.N. Says Wall Gives Israel 14% of West Bank

November 12, 2003|From Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Israel's security barrier will eventually carve off 14% of the West Bank, leave 274,000 Palestinians in tiny enclaves and block 400,000 others from their fields, jobs, schools and hospitals, a United Nations report said Tuesday.

The series of walls, razor wire, ditches and fences has inflamed already high tensions between Palestinians and Israelis. Israel has said the barrier is meant to keep out Palestinian extremists responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israelis in the last three years.

But Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Tuesday that it would also prevent tens of thousands of Palestinians from relocating in Israel -- as officials say has occurred in recent years.

Palestinians say the snaking barricade is an Israeli attempt to seize West Bank land that Palestinians claim for a future state.

About 90 miles of the barrier has been completed around the northern West Bank, mainly following the invisible boundary with Israel.

The unbuilt southern section, almost 430 miles long, will cut as far as 14 miles into the West Bank, said the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. This seems aimed at putting some Jewish settlements on Israel's side of the wall.

The barrier will affect nearly one-third of the Palestinians living in the West Bank, the report said.

"People's lives will be seriously disrupted," said David Shearer of the local UNOCHA office.

"For economic reasons, for education reasons, people will find it impossible to stay in these areas, and they will choose to move out," Shearer said.

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