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Israel Begins Dismantling Section of West Bank Barrier

A Palestinian boy holds Palestinian flags as an Israeli tractor removes parts of a section of Israel's separation barrier between the outskirts of the West Bank village of Bilin, near Ramallah, and the Jewish settlement of Modiin Illit, Sunday, June 26, 2

After a long Palestinian struggle, Israel on Sunday began changing the route of its security fence near a West Bank village.

Israel started dismantling a section of its controversial West Bank separation barrier as ordered by the nation's Supreme Court. The court ruled that the route of the barrier was illegal because it confiscated Palestinian farmland.

The construction work is taking place near the village of Bilin, the site of weekly protests that have become the symbol of the Palestinian struggle against the barrier. Israel says the fence is necessary to keep suicide bombers out of the country; Palestinians say it is a land grab because it confiscated territory beyond the 1967 borders.

Under the new barrier route, Israel will return 55 hectares of land to Palestinian villagers in Bilin.

The secretary of the village council, Mohammed Khattib, calls it a victory, but says the struggle is not over. Khattib told Israel Radio that weekly demonstrations on Fridays will continue until Israel returns some 20 hectares of village land.

The Israeli army commander for the area, Colonel Saar Tsur, says the new route of the barrier poses security challenges because it will be much closer to the large Jewish settlement of Modi'in. Tsur says there is a danger of mass marches by Palestinians on the settlement. But he says if that happens, the Israeli Army is prepared to stop them.