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Report: World Court to rule Israel's barrier illegal
Updated: 2004-07-09 15:18

The World Court will rule on Friday that Israel's West Bank barrier, which has imposed hardship on thousands of Palestinians, violates international law and should be torn down, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

The court will declare that the barrier infringed the rights of Palestinian inhabitants, said the newspaper which quoted documents that it said it had obtained on the decision.

"The construction of such a wall accordingly constitutes breaches by Israel of its various obligations under the applicable international humanitarian law and human rights instruments," Haaretz quoted the documents as saying.

Report: World Court to rule Israel's barrier illegal
A Palestinian woman walks past the construction site for the controversial security barrier that Israel is building to separate Jerusalem from the West Bank July 8, 2004.[Reuters]
The paper said on its Web site that 14 out of the 15 judges voted in favor of the advisory ruling, which is non-binding, with only American Thomas Buerghenthal dissenting.

Chief judge Shi Jiuyong of China was to start reading the ruling on the barrier's legality at 9 a.m. EDT. Likely to run to many pages, the ruling could take up to three hours to read.

No spokesman for the court, which is based in The Hague, could immediately be reached for comment on the Haaretz report.

Israel has said it will not accept what is expected to be among the most watched rulings in the 58 years of the World Court, in a case that has underlined the paralysis of Middle East peacemaking after years of violence. "We will abide by the ruling of our own High Court and not the panel in The Hague with judges from the European Union who are not suspected of being particularly disposed toward Israel," Justice Minister Yosef Lapid told Israeli Army Radio on Friday.

Last week Israel's top court ordered one segment of the barrier re-routed to avoid cutting off Palestinian villagers from farms, jobs, public services and cities, but ruled Israel had a right to build it in the West Bank on security grounds.


Israel says the network of fences, ditches and walls, a third of which -- 120 miles -- has been built, has already served its stated purpose by thwarting infiltration by suicide bombers. In the past such bombers had killed hundreds of Israelis.

Palestinians brand the barrier a precursor to annexing territory since its charted route often diverges from the boundary with Israel well into the West Bank to take in Jewish settlements on land captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Haaretz quoted the ruling as saying: "The wall, along the route chosen, and its associated regime, gravely infringes a number of rights of Palestinians residing in the territory occupied by Israel, and the infringements resulting from that route cannot be justified by military exigencies or by the requirements of national security or public order."

Israel is concerned that a World Court thumbs-down to the barrier would spur a push for sanctions against it by the U.N. General Assembly, where pro-Palestinian feeling is strong.

Israel looks to the veto power of key ally the United States in the U.N. Security Council to block any Palestinian-driven bid to punish the Jewish state as apartheid South Africa was after the World Court ruled its occupation of Namibia illegal in 1971.

Palestinians counted on the court, formally known as the International Court of Justice and the top U.N. legal authority, to declare the barrier illegal to enable possible sanctions.

"We put tremendous faith in this court," Palestinian President Yasser Arafat told reporters on Thursday.

The U.N. General Assembly sought an opinion in December and The Hague court held hearings in February overshadowed by the theatrical lobbying and demonstrations of both sides.

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