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February 18, 2003

Palestinians Protests After Israeli Army Commander Informs Bethlehem Residents of Partition

Why not convince the terrorsts to stop their killing if they don't want this?
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) - An Israeli army commander on Tuesday told Palestinians living near a Jewish pilgrimage site in Bethlehem that their neighborhood will be cut off from the rest of the town by a security wall, and that outsiders will need special permits to enter.
Palestinians complained that Israel grabbed the land illegally and is dividing the town in violation of previous peace agreements. Israel says the wall is necessary to protect Jewish worshippers and keep Palestinian militants out of Israel.

At issue is the area around Rachel's Tomb, the traditional burial site of the biblical matriarch. Abutting the already heavily fortified tomb are Palestinian homes, shops, a Muslim cemetery and a refugee camp. The area is on the northern edge of Bethlehem, just south of Jerusalem.

Israel retained control over the tomb after it withdrew from Bethlehem in 1995, as part of interim peace agreements. In the past 29 months of fighting, Palestinian stonethrowers and gunmen have frequently clashed with soldiers guarding the site. Israeli troops have reoccupied all of Bethlehem, along with other West Bank towns, in recent months, in an offensive against militants.

Israel's security Cabinet approved the construction of the wall through Bethlehem in September, as part of a series of barriers around Jerusalem that are intended to keep out Palestinian militants. [more]