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Tuesday, January 9, 2007

[Israel] Defense Minister halts work on Judean Desert separation fence

Last update - 18:06 09/01/2007   

Defense Minister halts work on Judean Desert separation fence
By Zafrir Rinat, Haaretz Correspondent

Defense Minister Amir Peretz has called for a halt in the construction of a section of the separation fence routed to run through the Judean Desert, until conclusive research about the environmental impacts of the fence can be done.
Peretz's decision comes after head of the Labor faction in the Knesset, Yoram Marciano, requested that Peretz assess the possibility of changing the route of the fence in order to avoid the expected negative impact it would have on the views and nature of the area.
Recently, environmentalists and settlers have launched joint efforts in nature preserves and settlements in the area of Hebron mountain to stop the construction of the fence within the Judean Desert, which they maintain will cause great harm to the ecology and aesthetics of the region.
Mount Hebron Regional Council Chairman Tzvika Bar-Chai recently met with official from the Israel Defense Forces' Central Command in an attempt to persuade them to reroute that section of the fence, or to cancel its construction altogether.
Bar-Chai enlisted the support of one of the founders of the Israeli conservation movement, Ezriya Alon, who in turn contacted GOC Central Command Yair Naveh.
"The essence of the Judean Desert is wholly unique in all of Israel. The fence will amputate the desert and destroy its vistas and appeal for backpackers and tourists, dealing a severe blow to the living world," Alon said in his statement to Naveh.
Dr. Yossi Lashem, former general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and one of the country's foremost aviary researchers, sent a letter on Wednesday to IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and Defense Department General Secretary Gabi Ashkenazi. In the letter, Lashem warned that the planned route of the fence would prevent animals from moving freely and would destroy food access for birds of prey.

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