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Israel Says West Bank Security Barrier Is Stopping Palestinian Terrorism - 2004-06-27

The Israeli Defense Ministry says the controversial West Bank security barrier has been a resounding success, blocking all attacks in the areas where it has been completed.

Speaking to reporters just before the cabinet meeting, Israel's Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim says the 200 kilometer section of the barrier that is operational has been fully effective for the past 10 months.

Mr. Boim says this is in sharp contrast to the previous year, when about 600 attempted terrorist operations were detected along the same part of the line between Israel and the West Bank.

But he says large sections of the barrier are not yet completed. Only 14 kilometers of the 64 kilometer area around Jerusalem has been built because of legal challenges.

A 106-kilometer-long stretch north of Jerusalem has also been stalled by demonstrations and petitions in Israel's Supreme Court. The planned route of the fence in this section cuts into the West Bank, affecting Palestinian farms.

Opponents of the project say Palestinian residents in these areas will become cut off from other parts of the West Bank.

Mr. Boim acknowledges that the barrier is hurting some Palestinians. He says Israel has taken steps to prevent the project from causing more harm, and to avoid, wherever possible, demolishing Palestinian houses along the route of the barrier.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Cabinet heard progress reports on the construction of the barrier and on a plan to continue building more sections, despite international opposition.

The International Court of Justice at The Hague is due to hand down its much-awaited advisory opinion on the legality of the security barrier on July 9.

The decision will be in response to a petition from the U.N. General Assembly.