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Israeli Police Official Urges West Bank Barriers - 2002-02-18

Israel's police commissioner has asked for barriers to be erected around the West Bank to prevent Palestinian terror attacks. The appeal came one day after Israeli security forces foiled five Palestinian suicide missions.

Israel's police commissioner, Shlomo Aharonishky, says that while his forces have prevented several terrorist attacks in recent days, police could not be expected to keep up this level of vigilance indefinitely.

He says that without a barrier any potential attacker could enter Israel from the West Bank.

In one of the recent incidents, three police officers were injured, one seriously, when they prevented an attack near an army base close to Hadera, in the north of the country.

Two Palestinians, who were carrying as many as 10 bombs, as well as automatic weapons, were killed near the base after the vehicle they were in was stopped by Israeli police.

One of the Palestinians began shooting and the police returned fire, killing him. The second, the driver, sped off, drawing gunfire from police. Israeli police say he detonated the explosives and died in the blast.

Police chief Aharonishky stressed his support for erecting physical barriers to separate the West Bank from Israel.

Some right-wing members of the government oppose the idea of "physical separation." They say this could result in the security fence being used to negotiate a formal border with the Palestinians during future talks.

Such a plan, however, does have the backing of other ministers on the right.

They include Internal Security Minister Uzi Landau, who is a Likud member. He has called for stronger action against the Palestinian Authority.

He presented the cabinet this week with what he called a separation program "to isolate terror." The main points of his plan include establishing a buffer zone along the West Bank, a security fence, and intensifying military operations with the objective of toppling the Palestinian Authority.

At the same time, the Israeli intelligence establishment is warning that the current wave of attacks, including a suicide bombing inside a Jewish settlement Saturday, are only likely to worsen.

This assessment was stated publicly Sunday by Israel's military intelligence director, Major General Aharon Zeevi, in a television interview. He says there is "definite information about terror attacks on the way" and they could happen at any time, any place.