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Historic ruling on Israeli ‘occupation’

[ Meanwhile, John Kerry said:

I am deeply disappointed by today’s International Court of Justice ruling related o Israel?s security fence. The fence is an important tool in Israel?s fight against errorism. It is not a matter for the ICJ.

–BL ]

10 July 2004 | Edinburgh Evening News

DAN WALDMAN

FOR the first time, an international court has ruled that land captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war is occupied territory.

The ruling was a boost for Palestinians, but Israel insists it won’t change its policy.

Yesterday?s decision by the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands referred to the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories and Israeli settlements in these areas as a violation of the Geneva conventions.

The statements came in a ruling on a 425-mile-long barrier in the West Bank, built by the Israelis to protect themselves against militant attacks.

The Palestinians, whose lives in some places have been severely disrupted by the complex of high concrete walls, razor-wire fences, trenches and watch towers, requested that the UN General Assembly ask the world court about the legality of the barrier.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry official said the court gave the Palestinians more than they expected, but that the ruling would not change anything.

“Basically, this is just United Nations language,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “For international law, language is always disputable. The international court is a respected body, but I don’t think this really makes any difference.”

However, an expert in international law said the ruling carried weight, describing it as a landmark in the conflict.

“Since 1967, Israel claimed that the West Bank was not occupied territory,” said Eyal Benvenisti, a senior law professor at the University of Tel Aviv. “It based this on its own peculiar interpretation. That interpretation was rejected today.”

Palestinian officials hailed the decision as significant.

Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erakat said: “This is the first time the international court has stated that the occupation and the settlements are illegal. I hope Israel will stop thinking it is above the laws of man.”

Officials on both sides are urging a return to the negotiating table. Israel maintains that the matter will not be decided by an international court. But Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, hailing the ruling as “a victory for justice,” said the Palestinians would now turn to the UN.

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