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Sharon orders Israeli barrier construction continued

This aerial view shows part of the barrier separating the outskirts of Jerusalem, top, from the West Bank.
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U.N. court rules Israel's security barrier violates international law.
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International Court of Justice (ICJ)

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Sunday ordered construction continued on a barrier between Israel and the West Bank despite a nonbinding world court ruling that it was "contrary to international law."

Sharon also ordered "that the struggle against the opinion of the [International Court of Justice] be continued by all diplomatic and legal means."

Israel says the barrier serves to keep out terrorists, while Palestinians say it is an illegal land grab creating needless hardship for their people.

The Palestinians also charge that the plan violates the "road map" to peace, the series of confidence-building measures and negotiations designed to lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state existing side-by-side in peace with Israel.

About one-third of the planned 425-mile barrier has been built since 2002. In some areas, the barrier is a fence; in others, it is a concrete wall. (Interactive: West Bank barrier)

The court, addressing the issue on Friday, said the barrier infringes on the rights of Palestinians and urged the Israelis remove it.

The court also said Israel is obligated to return confiscated land or make reparations for the destruction or damage to homes, businesses and farms affected by the barrier's construction.

Sharon's order followed a bombing in Tel Aviv earlier that killed an Israeli woman and injured 20 other people. (Full story)

"What the ICJ judges refused to see, the Palestinians quickly showed them this morning -- murder and the wounding of innocent civilians," Sharon said in a statement after the attack. "It is not for nothing that the Palestinians are struggling against the fence. They know full well that the completion of the fence will make it very difficult for them to continue perpetrating acts of murder."

Sharon said the ICJ's opinion "sends a deadly message that encourages terror on the one hand and prevents countries from protecting themselves against it on the other."

Sharon's media adviser said the prime minister asked Attorney General Meni Mazuz and Justice Ministry representatives "to present him with a legal analysis of the ICJ's opinion as soon as possible, as well as recommendations regarding what steps -- including legal -- the political leadership might take."

Israel, which does not recognize the court's authority, has argued that the controversial barrier is temporary. The court opinion noted that its "sole purpose is to enable it effectively to combat terrorist attacks launched from the West Bank."

The court also said that while Israel is entitled to protect its citizens, there is no persuasive evidence that the barrier is necessary to attain Israel's "security objectives."

The advisory opinion was sought by the U.N. General Assembly after Arab states proposed a resolution banning the structure.

Sharon ordered that construction continue after meeting Sunday afternoon with Industry, Trade and Employment Minister Ehud Olmert, Justice Minister Joseph Lapid, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Mazuz and various other senior officials.

After the court's ruling, hailed by the Palestinians, Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman said he does not expect U.N. sanctions to result from the court action.

"I don't think it will come to that," Gillerman said. "This is a nonbinding advisory opinion and therefore whether a country complies with it or not, is not something that can or should carry sanctions with it."

Under U.N. rules, the General Assembly can recommend sanctions, but only the Security Council can impose them. Yahya Mahmassani, the Arab League's permanent representative to the United Nations, said the issue is likely to be raised before the General Assembly early next week.

The international court, created in 1946, is the main legal body of the United Nations and is usually called upon to settle disputes between states.

Israel seized the West Bank from Jordan and Gaza from Egypt during the 1967 Six-Day War and began building settlements there soon after.

There are about 230,000 Israelis living in West Bank settlements. Gaza is home to about 7,500 Jewish settlers.

The ruling was the second against the barrier in the past two weeks. Israel's high court ruled June 30 that a section of the barrier under construction must be rerouted to avoid infringing on the lives of 35,000 Palestinians.

The court reviewed a 25-mile (40 kilometer) section of the barrier, and ruled that Israel's government must redraw 19 miles (30 kilometers) of the fence that would run west and northwest of Jerusalem. The court halted construction on the section in March. (Full story)

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