Israel is to build its West Bank separation barrier around a large settlement bloc east of Jerusalem, despite Palestinian protests that it will cripple any future state.
Officials confirmed yesterday that the route will loop around the huge Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, which was built on West Bank land occupied by Israel since 1967. Work is expected to begin within weeks.
The route was approved by the Israeli Cabinet in February and already appears on Israeli Defence Ministry maps, but it has been mired in controversy ever since President Bush criticised the plans of &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/2001/07/09/9680.html ' target=_blank>Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, to expand Maale Adumim’s 32,000-strong population on to surrounding virgin hilltops, adding another 3,650 homes.
Palestinians hoped that Mr Bush’s warning to Mr Sharon in Texas last month that there should be “no expansion of settlements” would persuade Israel to reroute the Ј1 million-a-mile barrier. However, Mr Sharon regards the annexation of Maale Adumim as Israel’s reward for pulling out of the Gaza Strip — and he also wants other blocs, such as Gush Etzion and Ariel. Each holds more Jewish settlers than the Gaza outposts put together, reports the Times Online.
Several thousand demonstrators took part at about 40 sites, and more than 200 were arrested, said the police and Israeli news reports.
The protest was the largest of several demonstrations called to oppose Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to evacuate close to 9,000 settlers this summer from the &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/hotspots/2002/04/25/28032.html ' target=_blank>Gaza Strip and a small number from the West Bank.