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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 December, 2003, 03:17 GMT
Court to rule on Israeli barrier
Israel's barrier
The Palestinians will be able to state their case
The World Court has said it will hear arguments about Israel's construction of a controversial West Bank barrier to separate Israelis from Palestinians.

Earlier this month, the Hague-based International Court of Justice court was asked by the UN General Assembly to rule on the legality of the barrier.

Israel insists it is vital for its security, while the Palestinians say it an attempt to seize their land.

The court said the hearings would open on 23 February.

It also set a 30 January deadline for the submission of written statements.

Although Palestine is not a UN member, it will be permitted to state its case because of its status of a UN observer and a co-sponsor of the resolution adopted by the General Assembly.

The International Court of Justice does not have the power to enforce its decisions or impose sanctions.

Razor wire barrier

Israel says its 700-kilometre (435 miles) barrier, stretching from north to south and deep into the West Bank, is designed to prevent suicide bombings and other attacks.

Guide to the route and structure of the West Bank barrier

Most of the barrier is a fence at least 3 metres (10 feet) high, reinforced with a ditch and coils of razor wire.

A few sections considered high-risk have been built from concrete blocks.

Palestinians say the barrier is a land grab by Israel and prejudges the border of a future Palestinian state.

The construction of Israel's barrier was criticised by the UN, which said it cut off hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their jobs, fields, hospitals and schools.

On Friday, Washington warned Israel against taking any unilateral measures to separate itself from Palestinians, after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon outlined his "disengagement plan" in case the US-backed roadmap peace plan failed.

Israel and the Palestinians



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