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Arafat Urges Palestinians to Voice Opposition to Barrier

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat urges Palestinians to voice their opposition to the barrier Israel is building in and around the West Bank. His comments come as the International Court of Justice in The Hague begins three days of hearings on the legality of the barrier.

In a televised speech from his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Yasser Arafat said the barrier is not going to bring Israel peace and security.

The world needs to know the truth, he says - namely that Israel is building this barrier to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state and to instead strengthen its own occupation of Palestinian land and its settlements on that land. Mr. Arafat says under these conditions there can be no two-state solution and no peace in the region. Mr. Arafat's comments come as The International Court of Justice begins three days of hearings over the legal consequences of the barrier.

Israel says the combination of walls, razor wire fences and trenches is needed to protect against terror attacks, while Palestinians and other critics say it's an attempt by Israel to lay down de-facto borders and grab as much Palestinian land as possible in the process.

At the same time, Israeli security officials are reported on high alert Monday to guard against attacks that might be timed to coincide with the court hearings in The Hague. Israel Radio says authorities had received word of more than 50 alerts of possible attacks.

The heightened state of security follows a suicide bomb attack in Jerusalem on Sunday, in which eight people were killed in addition to the bomber.

In claiming responsibility for the bombing the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade said the attack was in part to protest the barrier and in part as revenge for an Israeli military raid into Gaza over a week ago that left 15 Palestinians dead.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Sunday's attack proves the necessity of completing the barrier. Palestinian officials condemned the attack and urged a resumption of peace talks. Many were reportedly furious about the attack, which came as they are trying to garner world support against the Israeli barrier.