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Israel Builds Protective Fence Around West Bank - 2002-06-16


Israel's construction of a barrier around the West Bank has drawn fire not only from Palestinian officials but from some Israelis as well.

Israel on Sunday began building the barrier along part of its border with the Palestinian territories in the West Bank to stop militants from attacking Israel.

The first phase of construction calls for building a series of electronic fences, ditches and walls stretching 110 kilometers to block access to Israel from the West Bank towns of Jenin,Tulkarm and Qalqiya, which israel considers a den of militant activity.

Officials have estimated the cost at one million dollars a kilometer. They say the barricade eventually could stretch to 350 kilometers along the "green line" between Israel and the West Bank.

Palestinians say the fence will only aggravate tensions. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Israel of seeking to divide the territory into cantons to start an apartheid system worse than the one that existed in South Africa.

Hard-line Israelis fear the barrier will jeopardize Jewish settlers living in enclaves in the West Bank. They also say the fence will become generally recognized as a border between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

Meanwhile, Israeli troops on Sunday wounded one of three Palestinians who attempted to get around an Israeli roadblock near Jewish settlements in the Jordan valley. The wounded man escaped. The two other Palestinians were captured.

Palestinian gunmen killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded four others patrolling outside a Jewish settlement (Dugit) in northern Gaza Saturday. Israeli troops killed at least one of an unknown number of gunmen.

The al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the militant Palestinian group Hamas, has claimed responsibility.

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