Jerusalem, Aug. 1 (Reuters): US secretary of state Colin Powell said today Israel’s security barrier in the West Bank could undermine a peace “road map”, as Israeli troops fired rubber bullets at protesters trying to cut part of the fence.
Powell’s comments, published in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Maariv, followed President George W. Bush’s failure in talks on Tuesday to persuade Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to stop building the barrier.
Underscoring Palestinian anger stirred by the issue, several hundred protesters trying to breach the fence near the West Bank town of Tulkarm clashed with Israeli soldiers, witnesses said.
A spokesperson for the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement said seven of its activists — four Britons and three Americans — and two Palestinians were hit by rubber bullets but none was seriously wounded. The army confirmed using “non-lethal means to disperse the crowd”.
Palestinians say construction of the barrier, and Israel’s plans to build more homes at a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip in defiance of the peace plan, have dealt a blow to efforts to rebuild trust after 34 months of bloodshed.
Israel says the barrier is to keep out suicide bombers who have killed hundreds of its citizens. Palestinians say it grabs land they want as part of their state.
The US says it is a problem because it could make life harder for Palestinians and prejudge future borders.