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Israel building barrier around Palestinian village

WALAJEH, West Bank - Israel has started construction on a new section of its West Bank separation barrier that Palestinian residents say could sound a death knell for their hamlet.

The barrier, running much of the length of the West Bank, has already disrupted lives in many Palestinian towns and villages in its path. But it threatens to outright smother Walajeh: The community of about 2,000 on the southwest edge of Jerusalem is to be completely encircled by a fence cutting it off from most of its open land, according to an Israeli Defense Ministry map.

Walajeh old-timers are determined to stay, but doubt their children will feel the same way.

"We will cling to the village by our teeth," said Adel Atrash, a village council member. "But we don't know how the next generation will look at things."

Israel began building the barrier in 2002, saying it would be a temporary bulwark against Palestinian suicide bombers and gunmen who have killed hundreds of Israelis. However, the barrier's zigzag through the West Bank brought allegations that Israel is unilaterally drawing a border and grabbing land by scooping up dozens of Jewish settlements.

Six years ago Friday, the International Court of Justice said in a nonbinding ruling that the barrier's path through occupied territory violates international law and that Israel should tear down what it has built.

Israel rejected the decision, saying the barrier is crucial for keeping Israelis safe, and denies it is drawing a border.

- AP

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