U.S. asks Israel to halt construction of security fence

Special to World
Saturday, April 12, 2003

JERUSALEM The United States wants Israel to halt the construction of a security fence along the West Bank to protect against Palestinian suicide bombings.

Israeli officials said the State Department has relayed several messages to the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon regarding the $1 billion project. The messages asserted that the security fence could serve as a border claim by Israel and represents a unilateral change in the West Bank.

"They [U.S. officials] are concerned that the security fence will harm efforts to start implementation of the roadmap," an Israeli officials said.

The Defense Ministry launched the security fence project last year from northern Israel near the West Bank city of Jenin. The construction has been moving toward the Israeli settlement blocs of Ariel and Immanuel.

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The fence is expected to be between 50 and 80 meters wide and include moats studded with metal obstacles to obstruct vehicles. The fence will also contain electronic indicators, thermal observation posts and video cameras.

Israeli officials said the State Department is concerned that the security fence will include Israeli communities in the West Bank. Israel's Defense Ministry has recommended that the fence include Ariel, Immanuel and Kedumim.

Last month, the United Nations issued a report that called the security fence illegal and de facto annexation. The report, authored by John Dugard, who specializes in Palestinian rights, asserted that the fence would bring seven percent of the West Bank under direct Israeli control.

In response, officials said, Sharon has decided to delay a construction phase of the fence through the central region. Sharon's envoy, Dov Weisglass, has been in Washington for talks with the White House on the roadmap.

Sharon has refused to discuss the future of the security fence as well as the roadmap with his Cabinet. Instead, he said the issues would be reviewed with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. Israel has relayed 15 objections to the roadmap.

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