Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave his green light Tuesday for a plan beefing up security in Jerusalem and demanded it also apply to neighbouring Palestinian villages, his office said.
He approved the plan, called "enveloping Jerusalem", drawn up by the army, the police and the National Security Council (NSC) in coordination with the Jerusalem municipality.
Sharon told other officials during a meeting in his office that, for the purposes of the plan, the suburbs of occupied east Jerusalem "should be included in Greater Jerusalem" at the security level, a statement said.
This would most notably affect the villages of Abu Dis and Anata, adjacent to Arab east Jerusalem and located in Zone B, under Israeli security control and Palestinian administration.
The officials however said "the status of these villages should be unchanged," thus ruling out an annexation.
The right-wing prime minister said the Jerusalem security plan "should be considered as a whole since it includes Jewish neighbourhoods as well as Arab ones."
The plan comes after deadly attacks in west Jerusalem carried out by what Israel suspects are Palestinian militants infiltrating from the occupied territories.
The plan was officially submitted by Internal Security Minister Uzi Landau during a meeting which was also attended by Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert and NSC chief Uzi Dayan.
Finance ministry officials were present to assess the costs of the plan, which still has to be approved by Israel's 13-member security cabinet.
Public radio said Monday the plan proposes a series of checkpoints and physical barriers along the city's perimeters to control access. But it does not recommend checkpoints dividing west Jerusalem from east Jerusalem, it said.
Press reports Tuesday however spoke of a wall 11 kilometres (seven miles) long, trenches and the deployment of five companies of border-guards, or several hundred men, to cover the 54 kilometre (32 mile) perimeter of east Jerusalem.
The reports also said sophisticated electronic detection equipment, including thermal sensors and night-vision cameras were envisaged in the costly proposals to tighten security around the city.
East Jerusalem counts around 200,00 Palestinian residents and about the same number of Israelis living in settlement neighbourhoods.
But after Landau denied on Israeli radio the reports of a possible wall being erected to separate Jewish and Arab neighbourhoods, television's military specialist expressed doubts on the effectiveness of the new plan.
For his part, the Palestinian minister for Jerusalem affairs Zyad Abu Zyad said the Jerusalem plan "reflect the bankruptcy and the dilemma of this government."
"We say to the Israelis that all of their measures and restrictions on the movement of people in Jerusalem ... will not bring them peace because they are military oppressive measures," he said.
Israel remains on a knife-edge following two suicide bombings, one in Tel Aviv on Friday which injured 18 and a second in downtown west Jerusalem on Sunday, which killed an elderly Israeli and injured some 40 other people.
Last Wednesday a Palestinian gunman also killed two women in a shooting spree only a short distance from Sunday's attack and deadly suicide blasts in August and December.
(China Daily January 30, 2002)