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Following the filing of a petition by Palestinian villagers, the High Court of Justice on Thursday evening ordered a halt to construction of large sections of the West Bank separation fence between Jerusalem and Maccabim.

Residents of the Palestinian village of Beit Sourik located northwest of Jerusalem petitioned the High Court on Thursday against the altered route of the West Bank separation fence in their area claiming it does not conform with court-ordered adjustments.

The High Court issued a temporary injunction ordering the state "to refrain from all uprooting of trees or orchards and digging, paving, leveling, construction or other preparations for the erecting of the separation fence in the area around the villages of Biddu, Beit Sourik, Beit Iksa, Beit Aanan, Likiya, Katana, Khirbet Abu Lehem, Al-Kubeiba and Nebi Samuel."

The High Court ordered the state to respond to the villagers' petition within seven days.

The original route of the fence in the Beit Sourik area was disqualified by the High Court in late June 2004 and the state subsequently altered 30 kilometers of the route there and in other areas such at the southern Hebron Hills. In many parts of the relevant stretch, the fence had already been built.

However, locals claim that - though slight alterations have been made in the fence's route - it does not conform with the High Court ruling regarding the barrier's potential to violate human rights. Essentially, Beit Sourik residents are claiming the barrier's route does not conform with the ruling issued by the International Court of Justice.

Senior government sources in June had then expressed satisfaction with the High Court's ruling, noting that the court accepted the state's position in principle: that the fence was a security barrier rather than a political one, and that, therefore, the government has a right to build it in the West Bank, rather than being obligated to build it along the Green Line.