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Israel Ready to Modify Parts of Security Barrier - 2004-07-02

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says he is willing to move parts of the security barrier in and around the West Bank, as ordered earlier in the week by the country's supreme court. Military operations continue in the Gaza Strip with at least 10 Palestinians killed in the past two days.

Prime Minister Sharon has ordered ministers to review the current route of the security barrier and move it, where necessary, to reduce hardship for the local Palestinian population.

According to Friday's edition of the Ha'aretz newspaper, Mr. Sharon said Israel must not compromise security, but, where possible, should move the barrier closer to the so-called Green Line, the boundary between Israel and the West Bank before Israel captured the territory in the 1967 Middle East war.

Mr. Sharon discussed the issue Thursday with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Justice Minister Josef Lapid along with other senior ministry officials.

His willingness to accept changes to the barrier follows a supreme court ruling Wednesday that ordered the government to change the route of about 30 kilometers of the barrier northwest of Jerusalem, because it would cause too much harm to the local Palestinian population.

The barrier is a combination of concrete walls, fences, trenches and barbed wire, and is to run more than 600 kilometers around the West Bank. The government says it has already been successful in keeping out Palestinian suicide bombers.

Palestinians say Israel can build the barrier if it wants, but should do so on its own territory. Palestinians and human rights activists cite the fact that the barrier cuts deep into the West Bank in some areas as proof that it is nothing more than what they call an Israeli land grab.

Next week, the International Court of Justice in The Hague is to issue a non-binding advisory ruling on the barrier's legality.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military continues its operations in the Gaza Strip. Two Palestinians were reported killed in the southern Gaza Strip.

Eight Palestinians were killed during separate clashes Thursday in Gaza, while at least another 20 were injured.