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      Holes in the Fence: Jerusalem Barrier Far from Complete

      Nearly one-third of the proposed separation barrier in the Jerusalem area remains unfinished, mainly because of financial and legal problems.
      By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
      First Publish: 3/23/2009, 10:49 AM

      Israel News Photo: Flash 90

      Nearly one-third of the proposed separation barrier in the Jerusalem area remains unfinished, mainly because of financial and legal problems, State Comptroller and Ombudsman Micha Lindenstrauss has reported. Three of the planned checkpoints around the capital have not been built.
       
      Proponents of the barrier have claimed that its construction has all but stopped suicide bombings, but the report of the Comptroller came one day after a disaster was narrowly averted when police discovered a parked car with 200 pounds of explosives under a Haifa mall.

      The incomplete portions of the barrier leave the Gush Etzion area without checkpoints.

      The barrier has been completed in most of the north and the south, but its eastern flank remains wide open between Gush Etzion and the southern Hevron Hills, less than 10 miles north of the Arad-Be'er Sheva highway.

      The result is a three-sided fence that allows terrorists to circumvent the fence east of Highway 60, giving them free access over Judean Desert trails that lead to the Dead Sea and Arad, from where they have an open route to urban areas throughout the country.

      Two suicide bombers used the eastern flank to stage an attack in Dimona last year, killing two people. Another major terrorist attack was prevented earlier this year when patrolling IDF soldiers caught an armed terrorist between the southern point of the barrier and Arad.

      Budgetary restrictions and fierce opposition from environmentalists are the major obstacles to closing the eastern flank, which is home to animals who would be threatened with extinction by a barrier. The Judean Desert also includes cliffs and unique nature sites that would be severely damaged by an extension of the fence.

      The route of the fence has been changed several times following pro-Arab protests in the Israeli High Court, which has ruled several sections to be illegal.