Israel takes down wall near West Bank settlement

The Israeli military yesterday began removing part of an eight-year-old concrete wall which once protected an Israeli settlement from gunfire and shelling, citing sharply improved security as the reason.

The Palestinian Authority pointed out that the move, which does not affect the much longer 450-mile separation barrier, will have no impact on the lives of local Palestinians. But it seized on it as making the case for a wholesale easing of restrictions on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Army engineers removed sections of a three-metre-high blast wall alongside the Gilo settlement on the southern edge of Jerusalem in an operation which will continue over the next fortnight. The wall was constructed at the height of the intifada in 2002 to protect the settlers from shooting attacks from militants in the Palestinian town of Beit Jala, adjacent to Bethlehem.

Israel Defence Forces spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said yesterday that this was the first time "we have moved such a structure from a neighbourhood that was directly hit by sniper fire and shells". Lieutenant-General Hezi Revivo, of the engineering force removing the Gilo wall, told the Ynet news service: "The security situation in the area is better than it was in the period before the wall was built." Israel has praised the performance of US-trained Palestinian security forces.

But Ghassan Khatib, spokesman for the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, said: "They are not easing anything in practical terms. The only significance is an acknowledgement of the security situation. We are disappointed that when they acknowledge improvements in security they are not lifting the restrictions related to the day to day life of Palestinians, like removing checkpoints and stopping expansion of the wall itself."

The north-south route of the main separation barrier deviates at many points from the pre-1967 "green line" isolating Palestinian villages and cutting off Palestinian residents from their farmland, urban services, and their neighbours.

The US Presidential envoy George Mitchell has been conducting intensive negotiations on a formula which can bring Mr Abbas to the negotiating table despite fierce opposition from more militant Palestinian groups. The Palestinian President has so far been insisting on an extension of the current partial freeze to settlement building beyond September and for internationally endorsed negotiating "parameters".

In a review of the first year of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's plan to prepare for a Palestinian state, the authority has published a report listing its achievements, despite "the Israeli occupation's restrictions and obstacles". They included the building of 34 new West Bank schools, the expansion of a further 23, while 11 new health clinics were opened and a further 30 expanded, 44 housing projects were launched and 16 new roads were built.

Meanwhile Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak yesterday approved the long negotiated purchase from the US of 20 Lockheed Martin F35 fighter jets for the Israeli Airforce at a reported cost of $2.7bn.

* An Israeli suspected of using a fraudulently obtained German passport to take part in the assassination of Hamas militant Mahmoud Mabouh in Dubai has been released on bail in Germany after being arrested in Poland, Israeli newspapers reported. They speculated that the man, named as Uri Brodsky, was already back in Israel.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
food + drink
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'
tvCilla review: A poignant ending to mini-series
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: randstad education are curre...

Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: You must:- Speak English as a first lang...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: If you are a committed Te...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style