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Israeli high court: Redraw part of barrier

Wall must not infringe on lives of Palestinians, ruling says

Palestinians pass concrete blocks that will be used in the construction of the security barrier on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel's high court ruled Wednesday that a section of the West Bank security barrier under construction must be rerouted to avoid infringing on the lives of 35,000 Palestinians, according to an abstract of the court ruling.

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

"The fence's current path would generally burden the entire way of life in petitioners' villages," the ruling stated.

"The court accepted respondents' claim that the fence was built for reasons of national security. Those reasons could justify taking possession of plots of land in the West Bank."

Israel says the barrier is an effort to halt terrorist attacks by Palestinians. In some areas, the barrier is a fence; in others, it takes the form of a concrete wall.

Palestinians call barrier a land grab

Palestinian leaders say the barrier amounts to an illegitimate land grab by Israelis and an attempt by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to unilaterally set the borders between Israel and a Palestinian state, rather than negotiating with them as part of a final settlement.

The Palestinians also charge that the plan violates the Middle East "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.

A statement from Israel's Ministry of Defense said the verdict will be honored.

"An alternate route will be presented in the areas where the court has ruled and it will be based on the high court principles," according to the statement. "The security establishment will continue to do the best it can to prevent terror attacks and guard the safety of the citizens of Israel."

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei rejected the ruling as not resolving the real issue.

"I don't think it's a matter of changing the route or not," he said. "It's been built, it's a wall, a separation wall, which is being built on the Palestinian territory.

"It separates between the family itself, between the students and their schools, between the children and their parents, between the patients and their hospitals, etc. Therefore it is a real separation, racism separation wall and therefore this should be fallen."

Israel: Suicide attacks down

Sharon's senior adviser Ra'anan Gissin said Israel is constantly trying "to strike a balance between the rights of Palestinians to continue conducting their normal lives and our right to live" as it constructs the barrier.

Gissin credits the 87 miles (140 km) of the barrier that has been built so far, with reducing successful suicide attacks by 70 percent.

On July 9, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, is expected to rule whether the barrier violates international law.

Gissin said the international court has no right to adjudicate the issue, and Israel will not recognize its ruling. "What the court in The Hague wants is that we simply have no right to self-defense," Gissin said. "It creates a dangerous precedent."

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