A three-judge panel unanimously rejected a planned 18-mile segment near Jerusalem that would have cut off Palestinians from their farms, cities and schools, saying Israel’s need for security should not ignore the rights of nearby Palestinians, according to Reuters.
The judges said the ruling would set guidelines for hearings on about 20 Palestinian petitions against other sections of the barrier, the news agency reported.
“The replanning of these sections will be based on the principles set by the High Court, namely the proper balance between security and humanitarian considerations,” the Israeli Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Palestinians have called the barrier, which stretches 125 miles and is expected to eventually extend 370 miles, a disguised attempt to annex land since it enters far into the West Bank in some places. Israel says the network of walls and fences is intended to keep out Palestinian suicide bombers who have killed hundreds of Israelis.
The High Court’s ruling comes ten days before a decision on the barrier’s legality is expected from the International Court of Justice in The Hague as requested by the United Nations.
But Mohammed Dahleh, lawyer for the eight petitioning Palestinian villages, told reporters that the Israeli court’s ruling “is more important than the one at The Hague because this one will be followed.”
The moves on the West Bank come as the situation in Gaza continued to evolve. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced plans to evacuate Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip by the end of 2005.
Despite Sharon’s pledge, violence continued in the region. On Wednesday, a fierce gun battle erupted between Palestinian militants and Israeli security guards at the Karni crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, according to the Associated Press. It was not immediately clear if there were casualties.
The attack occurred as Israel launched a military operation in Gaza in which armored bulldozers destroyed scrub and trees the army said Palestinian militants used as cover to fire rockets into Israel.
Rockets fired from the Beit Hanoun area killed a 3-year-old boy and a grandfather outside a kindergarten in the Israeli town of Sderot on Monday, Reuters reported. They were the first killed in such an attack since the Palestinian uprising began in 2000.
During the incursion, Israeli forces killed a 16-year-old as he tried to plant a Palestinian flag on a mound of earth as dozens of other youths threw stones and concrete bricks at Israeli soldiers. Military officials said Israeli forces fired a warning shot, which hit the youth.