Israel to speed up building West Bank barrier

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Israel to speed up building West Bank barrier

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Ehud Olmert’s Israeli cabinet has moved to accelerate the completion of the controversial West Bank barrier. The issue was high on the agenda at today’s cabinet meeting.The government also opted to slighly modify the route. It means several thousand Palestinians near the Jewish settlement of Ariel will remain in an area outside the fence.

The interim prime minister said his administration was committed to making a major effort to complete the structure as quickly as possible in places where there are no legal obstacles. Legal action by Palestinians has so far delayed the construction, putting its completion behind schedule. The separation fence is set to stretch for 870 kilometres. While Palestinians complain the fence is a land grab, Israel argues the barrier, which snakes in and around the West Bank, is for self-defence. A Palestinian who blew himself up in Tel Aviv earlier this month – killing nine people – is believed to have entered through an opening in the structure in or near Jerusalem. Last week, Ehud Olmert ordered that gaps in the fence be closed around the city.