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Israel Imposes General Closure on Gaza Strip - 2004-01-16


The Israeli army has sealed off the Gaza Strip in response to a Palestinian suicide bombing that killed four Israelis Wednesday.

The move is preventing several thousand Palestinians from reaching their jobs in Israel.

An army statement says movement to and from Israel will be authorized for humanitarian cases. It did not say how long the general closure will remain in effect.

Israeli officials also say there may be military retaliation for the suicide attack. The bomber was a 22-year-old Palestinian woman who blew herself up at the main crossing point between Gaza and Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel's high court said Thursday that it will hold a hearing on the legality of Israel's controversial West Bank security barrier before the International Court of Justice deliberates on the project.

The Israeli court said Thursday it will hear a petition submitted by a human rights group (The Center for the Defense of the Individual) that questions whether parts of the barrier that slice into Palestinian territory are legal.

The court set a hearing for February 5th --- two weeks before the Hague court convenes -- to determine if Israel is legally obligated to tear down the barrier, which is currently under construction.

Israel says the barrier is meant to stop Palestinians from crossing into the Jewish state to carry out terror attacks. But Palestinian officials say the barrier is an attempt by Israel to unilaterally impose boundaries on the Palestinians.

Information for this report is provided by AP and AFP.

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