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Israel Plans Buffer Zones  Around Jewish Settlements - 2003-10-03

The Israeli military is proposing to build 400-meter buffer zones around all West Bank Jewish settlements not included within a controversial security barrier. The plan is being made amid increased international protests against the barrier and plans to build more homes for Jewish settlers. The Israeli Defense Forces have already approved plans for the 400-meter buffer zones around 17 Jewish settlements. Three are under construction.

Nearly 100 settlements have applied to be inside the zones, which would ring the communities and be off limits to Palestinians.

Security guards would be authorized to open fire on intruders and those who have not been granted prior permission to enter the communities.

The plan is meant to give protection to those Jewish settlements that fall outside a security barrier now under construction in the West Bank.

The fence is designed to stop Palestinians crossing into Israel from the West Bank to carry out suicide bombings and other terror attacks.

Hamas, one of the groups that frequently carries out suicide bombings, said Friday the barrier would not stop it from killing more Israelis.

Hamas issued a statement in the Gaza Strip saying the barrier would not prevent what it called strikes of resistance.

The statement said that the day will come when the barrier would collapse just as the Berlin Wall collapsed.

The Palestinian leadership has called on the international community to intervene and stop the construction of the fence, which it says is an attempt by Israel to seize more land in the West Bank.

Israel has also been criticized by the Palestinians for announcing plans to expand Jewish settlements.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday that the United States also has concerns about continuing settlement building in the West Bank.