JERUSALEM, Israel - For years a concrete wall has kept Palestinian bullets out of a south Jerusalem neighborhood. Now the security barrier that has protected Israeli Jews from Palestinian gunfire is being torn down.
During the second Intifada (armed Palestinian uprising) from 2000 to 2004, Fatah-affiliated Tanzim militiamen commandeered homes in the predominantly Arab Christian village of Beit Jala to allow their snipers to have better locations in order to shoot at the Israelis living across the valley.
In 2002, two years into the Intifada, the Israel Defense Forces destroyed much of the terror infrastructure in the PA-controlled city of Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield. The operation helped reduce the terrorist activities overall, which in turn diminished attacks on Gilo from Beit Jala.
"The current situation where we have an open dialogue with the Palestinian Security Forces enables us to remove these elements today because of a reduced threat of direct fire against the Israeli neighborhood of Gilo," said Maj. Peter Lerner of IDF.
Not everyone is convinced the timing is right to remove the protective barrier.
"We had security when the wall was up," said one Gilo resident. "Now only God knows."
Before Operation Defensive Shield, Gilo residents dodged random sniper fire in their apartments and on the street.
The government installed bulletproof glass in windows facing the valley and constructed the barrier to protect the neighborhood.
Residents painted murals on the barrier depicting normal life free of sniper fire.
Some of Gilo's streets will be closed during the dismantling of the wall, which is expected to take approximately two weeks.