Israel tears down section of divisive enclosure fence

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A tractor removes a section of Israel's separation barrier between the outskirts of Bilin and the Jewish settlement of Modiin Illit on Sunday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

NAALIN CROSSING, West Bank — Israel began tearing down a section of its contentious West Bank separation barrier Sunday near a village that has come to symbolize Palestinian opposition to the enclosure, the military said.

The rerouting marked a major victory for the residents of Bilin and the international groups that have backed their struggle. But they said it fell short of their demands to remove the structure from the village altogether and vowed to continue with their weekly protests.

The dismantling of the section near the village of Bilin comes four years after Israel’s Supreme Court ordered it torn down. Planning and legal wrangling held up its removal until now.

Israel began building the barrier in late 2002 to keep out Palestinian attackers amid a wave of suicide bombers targeting its cities. It said the structure is needed to keep militants from reaching Israeli population centers.

But the barrier juts into the West Bank, and critics say the route is designed to grab land that Palestinians want for a state.

“We are going to continue until we get all our rights,” said Rani Burnat, a 30-year-old resident paralyzed in a separate demonstration 10 years ago. This barrier isn’t for security. It’s to steal land and build settlements.”