Israeli High Court Orders Suspension of Wall

The Israeli Supreme Court on Sunday ordered a one-week halt to construction at a section of the West Bank security barrier where soldiers shot dead two Palestinians during a violent protest last week.

Under intense international pressure, including last week's highly publicized hearing about the legality of the barrier at the International Court of Justice (search) in The Hague, Netherlands, Israeli officials had already pledged to change the planned route of the barrier to ease hardships on Palestinians.

The Israeli court on Sunday issued an order to temporarily stop work on a section of the barrier being built near Jerusalem while the military considers alternate routes.

Also Sunday, two Palestinian militants were killed in West Bank (search) clashes with Israeli forces. Soldiers entered the Balata refugee camp next to the city of Nablus and traded fire with militants, killing Mohammed Zuheir Oweis, 23, Palestinians said.

Oweis was a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades (search), a violent group linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

A few hours later, during Oweis' funeral, another clash erupted and a second Palestinian, Iyad Abu Shalal, was killed. Security officials said he was involved in a December ambush that wounded seven Jewish worshippers returning from an unauthorized visit to a holy site in Nablus.

At another funeral procession, this one in Gaza City, militants threatened to hit back at Israel as they buried three Palestinians killed in an Israeli missile strike Saturday night near the sprawling Jebaliya refugee camp.

Two of the three were prominent in the Islamic Jihad, and their coffins were covered with flags from the violent group. The third, a supporter of the group, was a cousin of one of the militants.

"We promise Sharon that our retaliation is coming soon," said a masked militant, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Meanwhile, police said Sunday they had arrested three Palestinian boys who said they were on their way to carry out an attack in the Israeli city of Afula.

The boys -- ages 12, 13 and 15 -- were among the youngest arrested in three years of conflict. Relatives said they left behind letters that indicated they did not expect to return alive from their mission.

The father of one of the boys said he was furious with militant groups for recruiting the children.

An Israeli military court on Sunday found an army captain guilty of negligence in the October 2002 killing of a Palestinian teenager who was inside his house studying when he was shot and killed.

An army statement said the officer, named by Israeli media as Zvi Kurtzky, showed "clear negligence" when he opened fire with live ammunition to disperse stone-throwing youths in the West Bank village of Nazlat Zeid, killing 16-year-old Mohammed Zeid with a stray bullet which went through a window of the boy's house, near where the group of stonethrowers were standing.

At the Israeli Supreme Court on Sunday morning, Palestinian and Israeli opponents of Israel's West Bank barrier won a temporary victory.

In its order stopping work on a section northeast of Jerusalem -- scene of the first fatalities in anti-barrier protests -- the court ordered the military to grant hearings to the residents, Israel Radio reported.

On Thursday, protesters tried to stop bulldozers from flattening land for the barrier on the West Bank side of the boundary with Israel, opposite a Jewish suburb. Israeli soldiers opened fire, killing two Palestinians and wounding more than a dozen.

According to present plans, the barrier is to run 400 miles around and in the West Bank, carving out large chunks that would remain under Israeli control and isolating many Palestinian towns and villages.

The Haaretz daily reported Sunday that Israel has told the United States it would make further changes in the route, canceling some "fingers" extending into the West Bank to protect Jewish settlements and eliminating some double fences that would trap thousands of Palestinians.

Mohammed Dahla, a lawyer for the Popular Committee Against the Wall -- a grouping of Palestinians and Israelis -- told the court that the section of the fence near Jerusalem would imprison 30,000 Palestinians in eight towns and villages by encircling them.

A single gate would allow them to exit the area, effectively cutting them off from both Jerusalem and nearby Ramallah.

"There is no reason ... to cut these residents off from their community, from their society," Dahla said. "You can't just enclose people in corrals."

Israel insists that the barrier, including the encirclements, is necessary for security, designed to keep Palestinian homicide bombers and other attackers out. Palestinians call it a land grab aimed at preventing them from setting up a state.

About one-quarter of the barrier is complete, in the northern section of the West Bank. Israeli officials say it has already prevented homicide bombings in the part of Israel opposite the barrier.