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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 February, 2004, 15:32 GMT
Israel told to halt barrier work
Palestinian protest at Bidou
Palestinians have held violent protests against the barrier
Israel's Supreme Court has ordered the government to halt construction of part of the West Bank barrier for one week.

Judicial sources said the court ordered work to stop while it examined the barrier's planned route around eight Palestinian villages near Jerusalem.

Last week, Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians in one of the villages during protests against the barrier.

Israel says the barrier is vital to block suicide bombers, but critics say it is a device to grab land.

Protest deaths

The Supreme Court was responding to a petition by Israeli and Palestinian members of the group Popular Committee Against the Wall.

Guide to the route and structure of the West Bank barrier

The committee said the planned route of the barrier would effectively imprison 30,000 Palestinians, cutting them off from Jerusalem and the Palestinian city of Ramallah.

On Thursday, two Palestinians were killed in the village of Bidou after Israeli troops clashed with hundreds of demonstrators trying to halt the building work.

The 42-kilometre (25 miles) section of the barrier would run through Bidou and the neighbouring village of Beit Surik.

The deaths were the first during protests against the wall since Israel began construction last year.

Last week, the International Court of Justice at The Hague held a hearing into the legality of the barrier.

Israel has said it will shorten the barrier to 640km - 80km less than originally approved - to ease the burden on Palestinians.

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