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Israel Redraws Security Barrier

A new blueprint leaves a major Jewish settlement in the West Bank outside the fence.

September 15, 2003|From Reuters

JERUSALEM — Israeli defense officials, apparently bowing to U.S. demands, said Sunday that they had revised the planned course of a West Bank security barrier so that it would leave out a major Jewish settlement.

The new blueprint, presented by Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz to U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer last week, would exclude the settlement of Ariel, about 12 miles inside the West Bank, a defense official said.

The United States has expressed concern at Israel's plan to make the barrier enclose Jewish settlements deep in the West Bank. Most of the barrier consists of a metal fence equipped with electronic sensors and tipped by razor wire; other sections are concrete walls.

Israel says the fence is intended to keep out Palestinian suicide bombers; Palestinians say it is an attempt by Israel to expand its political boundaries by cordoning off large expanses of the West Bank.

Under the revised plan, the southwestern portion of the fence would run closer to the frontier held by Israel on the eve of the 1967 Middle East War, when it captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The latest blueprint, which requires government approval, puts Ariel, population 16,000, and nearby settlements outside the barrier. They would be surrounded by their own separate security fences instead, said the defense official, who asked not to be identified.

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