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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 September, 2004, 18:01 GMT 19:01 UK
Israelis begin barrier in south
Men working on the West Bank barrier
Construction work is far advanced on the northern section
Israel has started work on the southern section of the West Bank barrier.

Bulldozers carried out preparatory clearing work on Sunday around the village of Beit Awwa near Hebron.

The activity comes just five days after suicide bombings in the southern city of Beersheva, but officials say it had been planned long before the attacks.

Work is more advanced on the northern part of the barrier, parts of which the International Court of Justice found to be illegal in a July ruling.

Guide to the route and structure of the West Bank barrier

Israel's High Court ruled in June that plans must be amended to reduce disruption to Palestinian communities.

Israel argues that the barrier is needed to stop attacks by Palestinian militants.

The Palestinian Authority says the real goal of the barrier is to grab more Palestinian land. The wall is built inside the West Bank and, in parts, cuts a long way into the territory.

Measurements

Sixteen people were killed in the Beersheva attacks on Tuesday, which provoked calls for the speeding up of work on the southern section of the barrier.

Some Israeli officials say that construction of the northern section has pushed militant activity further south.

Witnesses saw bulldozers levelling land around Beit Awwa, and a Defence Ministry spokeswoman told Reuters news agency that measurements were being taken.

Actual construction work on the barrier will begin in two to three weeks, she said.

The exact route of the southern barrier is not yet known.


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The BBC's James Ingham
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