Israelis says work on the security fence will continue
Construction of a huge barrier in the West Bank will continue despite a UN General Assembly resolution condemning the project, a senior Israeli government minister has said.
Members of the UN forum overwhelmingly backed a resolution demanding that Israel halt building work and remove existing stretches of the concrete and steel fence.
The resolution adopted late on Tuesday says the barrier contravenes international law.
But it falls short of meeting Arab-led demands that the entire matter be referred to the International Court of Justice in the Hague for a legal ruling.
Hours after the vote, Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said construction of the barrier, which Israel says is needed to protect against suicide bombers, would continue.
"The fence will continue being built and we will go on taking care of the security of Israel's citizens," he told Israel radio.
UN votes on Israel's fence
4 against (Israel, Marshall Islands, US, Micronesia)
Palestinians view the barrier as a wall that is encroaching on more Palestinian land and making a number of Israeli settlements in the border areas permanent.
They say the barrier is grabbing territory, cutting off Palestinian farmers from their land and villages from their hospitals and schools. They say it is making life unbearable for tens of thousands of Palestinians.
Although Palestinians have welcomed the stance taken by the UN, the General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, and carry less weight those passed in the Security Council.
The resolution was passed with 144 in favour, four against and 12 members abstaining. Israel, the United States, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands voted against.
But Israel remains defiant.
Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Israel Radio: "We have to worry about Israel's security and it is clear that we will not act according to the instructions of a hostile, automatic
majority... which has always acted against Israel."
Ron Nachman, the mayor a Jewish settlement which could be surrounded with security barriers, was angry at the UN resolution.
"It's a shame on the United Nations to accuse a country that defends itself against suicide bombers for taking defence precautions," he told the BBC.
An Israeli human rights group says 210,000 Palestinians have been directly affected by the fence, particularly in places where it cuts off Palestinian access to schools, hospitals, universities and government services
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called the UN
decision a victory for peace.
He told the Reuters news agency: "The Israeli statement reflects an Israeli determination to continue violating international law and continue the path of occupation
and settlement rather than peace and reconciliation."
Meanwhile, Russian officials at the UN say they have circulated a new Security Council resolution calling on both Israel and the Palestinians to fulfil their obligations under the internationally-backed peace plan, known as the roadmap.
In accordance with the resolution passed on Tuesday, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has to report back in a month's time on Israeli compliance with the demand that work on the barrier be reversed.
If the situation has not changed, then Mr Annan is tasked with suggesting what further actions should be considered.