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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 September, 2003, 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK
Israel's West Bank barrier 'illegal'
Israel's security fence
Israel says the fence is to stop attacks from the West Bank
A United Nations human rights investigator has denounced a controversial barrier Israel is building in the West Bank as illegal.

John Dugard, a South African law professor, said the wall was tantamount to an "unlawful act of annexation" which should be condemned by the international community.

Israel, which says it is building the wall to stop suicide bombers crossing from Palestinian areas, dismissed the findings as "one-sided, highly politicised and biased".

The report by the special investigator comes a day before the Israeli Cabinet is due to decide on the route of the next stage of construction.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said the fence will be built around two Jewish settlements - Ariel and Kedumim - reaching deep into the West Bank.

The Palestinians have described the fence as a "Berlin Wall", which traps some Palestinian towns and villages and has cut off farmers from their land.

America has also raised objections and are considering withholding loan guarantees to Israel in line with the money the Israelis spend on the barrier.

'Facts on the ground'

In his report for the UN Commission on Human Rights, Mr Dugard warned that the wall would incorporate "substantial areas" of the West Bank into Israel.
Guide to the route and structure of the West Bank barrier

"The evidence strongly suggests that Israel is determined to create facts on the ground amounting to de facto annexation," the report said.

He said about 210,000 Palestinians living in the area between the wall and Israel, would be cut off from social services, schools and places of work.

"This is likely to lead to a new generation of refugees or internally displaced people," he said.

Mr Dugard said Israel's security concerns "cannot be denied", but said "some limit must be placed on the violation of human rights in the name of counter-terrorism".

Violence 'ignored'

Israel's ambassador to the UN, Yaakov Levy, rejected the report as politically motivated.

Activists spray graffiti on the security fence in the West Bank town of Qalqilya

"The report totally disregards the context of continuous violence directed against Israeli civilians," he said.

Hundreds of Israelis have been killed by Palestinian suicide bombers who have walked from Palestinian areas into Israeli towns over the past nine years.

Israel has insisted the fence, which will eventually stretch about 225 kilometres (140 miles) is a temporary measure and says it has endeavoured to minimise disruption to Palestinians living in the area.

Zalman Shoval, an advisor to Ariel Sharon, said the next stage of the fence will incorporate Ariel and other settlements but that gaps will be left in the fence.


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The BBC's Jannat Jalil
"The Israelis call it a security barrier, the Palestinians call it a new Berlin wall"



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