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Israel Maps Out Security Fence

Palestinian women walk next to a new section of the wall Israel is building between Israel and the Palestinian territories near the Palestinian West Bank village of Masha Thursday Oct. 23, 2003.
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Israel published a detailed map Friday of its planned security barrier, which would encircle tens of thousands of Palestinians, cutting them off from the West Bank, and would keep about 80 percent of Jewish settlers on the Israeli side of the fence.

The snaking path of the fence, which slopes from flat land up into mountains, cuts deep into the West Bank, surrounding much of it from the north, west and south, and will likely enflame already fierce international opposition.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the military also was planning a final section of the barrier in the eastern area of the West Bank and would soon present it to the Cabinet. That section, which would cut Palestinians off from the Jordan Valley, would likely pass a few miles from the Jordan River, he said in an interview broadcast Friday on Israel's Channel Two.

"The route is being planned now. The moment it will be completed, it will be presented to the government," Sharon said.

A senior Israeli official said Friday that route would fit Sharon's concept of permanent Israeli control over the valley.

Palestinians are strongly opposed to the barrier, saying Israel is using it to create a de facto border that cuts deep into West Bank land they claim for a future state. Israel says the barrier is intended to keep Palestinian militants from entering the country to carry out attacks.

Also Friday, two Islamic militants cut through a fence around the isolated Jewish settlement of Netzarim in Gaza under early morning fog and broke into the barracks of the soldiers guarding the area. They went from room to room shooting sleeping soldiers, killing three and wounding two others, according to the army and media reports.

Troops shot and killed one of the Palestinians, who was armed with an assault rifle, but failed to find the second attacker in the fog, the army said.

The militant group Hamas later released surveillance video of Netzarim taken before the attack, suggesting an increase in the militant group's ability to plan and carry out such raids.

The video, several minutes long and apparently shot from far away, showed the settlements' red roofed houses, an army truck and a station wagon driving on roads inside and a person riding a bicycle. The video also showed the two attackers, one from Islamic Jihad and the other from Hamas, practicing throwing grenades and shooting at a large plastic soda bottle.

The face of the Islamic Jihad attacker, who had escaped, was blurred in the video to protect his identity. Militants identified the dead attacker as Samir Fouda, 21, a Hamas militant from Gaza's Jebaliya refugee camp.

A settlement security guard, Eliyahu Zan, said that a call came over his walkie-talkie warning that an attacker was in the settlement and residents turned off house lights and prepared weapons.

"We heard the sound of the shooting very loudly. It pounded in our ears," he told Israel Radio.

Gaza is surrounded by a security fence of its own, and not one of the more than 100 suicide bombers who have attacked Israelis over the past three years made it past the fence. Israel says it is seeking to replicate that success with the West Bank barrier and has already built 90 miles of fences, walls and trenches around the northern part of that territory.

But where that section hugs fairly close to the border before the 1967 war — dipping slightly into the West Bank to include Jewish settlements — the new section approved three weeks ago would extend deep into the West Bank.

The Israeli military published a map of the new section for the first time Friday, outlining a series of double fences in some areas to protect Israel's international airport from rocket attacks and a planned ringed road around Jerusalem.

Those barriers will completely surround several West Bank towns, including Qibya, Beit Sira and Bir Nabala, isolating an estimated 70,000 Palestinians, according to some Israeli officials.

Defense ministry spokeswoman, Rachel Niedek-Ashkenazi, said defense officials had not yet finished their estimates on the number of Palestinians that would be cut off, but said 70,000 was much higher than their current assessments.

U.S. officials have not yet approved that section of the fence and are studying whether it is necessary to protect planes taking off and landing at the airport, the security sources said.

Opponents of the fence accuse Sharon of using it to grab West Bank land and isolate the Palestinians.

"This fence allows Sharon to realize his dreams, to divide up the Palestinian population into small groups, a cantonization," said Dror Etkes of the Israeli group Peace Now.

The new section of the fence would put 80 percent of settlers on the Israeli side, security sources said.

It would take two more years to complete the fence, said Amos Yaron, director general of the defense ministry.

The fence also would contain several unconnected sections around settlements, including Ariel, a community of 18,000 Israelis some 15 miles inside the West Bank, according to the map.

Israel was leaving those sections unconnected to allay U.S. fears that the barrier would limit Palestinians' freedom of movement and would unilaterally define the border of a future Palestinian state. The United States has said it opposes extending the barrier deep into the West Bank, and the United Nations on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a resolution demanding Israel tear it down.

Palestinians say the barrier sabotages any effort to create a viable Palestinian state.

"This wall will create a new fact on the ground, which will make it impossible to reach any political solution," said Hassan Abu Libdeh, a spokesman for Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia.

Yaron said the fence was designed to keep as many Israelis on possible on the Israel side, while putting as many Palestinians as possible on the other side.

"If the route goes along the ('67 border) it wouldn't jibe with the principle of giving protection to as many Israelis as possible," Yaron was quoted as telling the daily Maariv.

Also Friday, Palestinian doctors said an 11-year-old Palestinian died after he was injured by Israeli gunshots near the boy's Gaza home. Elsewhere in Gaza, a 10-year-old boy was shot in the stomach and was taken to a hospital in critical condition. The army said it did not know of shootings in either area.

Also, in northern Gaza, soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian who approached the fence of another settlement, the military said.

Meanwhile, two Palestinian men died of wounds from an Israeli helicopter missile strike Monday in a Gaza refugee camp, bringing the death toll in that airstrike to 10. Also, a 15-year-old Palestinian died of wounds from a battle last week between Israeli troops and gunmen in the southern Gaza town of Rafah.