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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 January, 2005, 13:16 GMT
Army seeks Gaza trench consent
Israeli army vehicle on the Philadelphi road
A Israeli army vehicle patrolling the Egypt-Gaza border
The Israeli army is seeking permission to build a trench along the Gaza-Egypt border, to curb Palestinian efforts to smuggle in arms through tunnels.

The AP news agency says the three schemes put to the attorney general would mean the demolition of between 200 and 3,000 Palestinian homes.

There has been no official word from the army on the application.

However, on Sunday the Israeli defence ministry announced that construction of a trench could begin within weeks.

The trench is expected to follow part of the Israeli-controlled corridor along the border, also known as the Philadelphi Road.

Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat condemned the plans for the trench, calling them "a catastrophe and a disaster for the Palestinian people".

In June, Israel began soliciting bids for a trench that is expected to be 25m wide and about 5 km long. The number of houses demolished will depend on the width of the trench.

Thousands made homeless

According to the United Nations, more than 24,000 Gazans have been made homeless in the last four years by Israeli army house demolitions.

Israel says the home demolitions are carried out for security reasons, while Palestinians see them as collective punishment.

Gaza has been occupied by Israel since 1967.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon plans to withdraw all the 8,000 Jewish settlers and the Israel will maintain control of Gaza's borders, coastline and airspace. He also plans to give up four small settlements in the West Bank.

Maariv reported the army planned to complete the trench project before the withdrawal from Gaza which is expected in June this year.


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