- Title: WEST BANK: Section of controversial West Bank barrier to be re-routed
- Date: 5th September 2007
- Summary: MEN PLAYING DRUMS CELEBRATING COURT DECISION NEAR BARRIER AND ISRAELI SOLDIERS
- Embargoed: 20th September 2007 13:00
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA58FLWAB818S57L51FEY3ADCDO
- Story Text: Palestinian villagers celebrate Israeli court ruling to move separation barrier. Residents of nearby Israeli settlement say the court's decision gives them reason to worry.
Palestinians in a village at the centre of violent weekly protests on Tuesday (September 4) won an Israeli Supreme Court battle to have Israel's controversial West Bank barrier re-routed.
Citing hardships facing residents of Bil'in, a three-justice panel ordered the Israeli government and military to ensure that a section of the barrier set to cut through the village's farmland should circumvent it instead.
Ruling in an appeal Bil'in residents lodged two years ago, the court said the current route risked causing "significant harm" to the villagers' quality of life.
In Bil'in, villagers and activists gathered near the barrier to celebrate the court's decision.
Michael Sfard, an Israeli attorney who represented Bil'in villagers in court, told reporters the Israeli Supreme Court has accepted that "the route of the wall that goes on the lands of the village of Bil'in was not decided according to security needs, but according to the desire to expand the illegal settlement of Modiin Elite."
Local Palestinian residents applauded the Israeli court's decision.
"The decision of the Israeli High Court today means a lot to us.
The fruit of our two and a half year struggle - it was a continuous struggle in the village of Bil'in. Today we reap the fruits of that struggle,"
Rateb Abu Rahma, a protest leader from Bil'in said.
A Palestinian woman from Bil'in said: "I'm happy, and I can't describe how happy I am. We are now happy, and I can't describe my joy. I'm so happy. They're going to go away. Our house is right there, opposite the barrier. They had us closed in. I can't even describe. They don't let us leave or come back. So God willing this will be a solution and they will have some distance from us."
In the nearby West Bank settlement of Modiin Elite, Israeli settlers said the court's decision, which will allow Palestinians to access land closer to the settlement, caused them to be concerned over their security.
Yaacov, a Modiin Elite settler said "It's a terrible problem. I think that each and every one of us needs to have a weapon or something to defend us. It is much scarier, and much more problematic."
Avraham, another settler about the court's decision. said: "The Jewish people have to first and foremost worry about the Jews, and here there's a feeling that they're worrying about the Arabs. That's a difficult feeling that's accompanying us on this day with this ruling - and this ruling hurts us a lot."
Israeli security forces and protesters, including left-wing Israelis and pro-Palestinian activists from abroad have taken part in weekly Friday confrontations in Bil'in during which demonstrators hurl rocks and Israeli soldiers fire tear gas and rubber coated bullets.
A United Nations report issued this year said Israel has completed more than half of the planned 720 kilometre (430 mile)-long barrier in the West Bank.
Palestinians call the project a land grab. The International Court of Justice says the barrier is illegal because it cuts through land that Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.
Israel says the vast network of concrete barriers and razor-wire fencing stops suicide bombers used to spearhead a Palestinian uprising that erupted in 2000.
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