JERUSALEM, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- The dismantling began Sunday of a concrete barrier erected in the second intifada to protect Jerusalem residents from Palestinian sniper fire.
Israeli army's Home Front Command began removing the concrete barriers in the southwest Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, that separated the residential area from the Palestinian town of Beit Jalla, which lies opposite the neighborhood and Bethlehem to the north.
At the outbreak of the second intifada in October 2000, Palestinian snipers positioned themselves in Beit Jalla -- separated by a deep gorge from the Jerusalem neighborhood -- and shot at Israelis.
A decision was made two years later to erect high concrete barriers along the side of the neighborhood that overlooks the Palestinian areas, to enhance residents' security.
Home Front command officer Lt. Gen. Hezi Revivo Sunday said a decision was made to dismantle the barrier because of the greatly improved situation.
"The security situation in the area has greatly improved in recent years and there is no need to leave the barrier standing. However, if in the future the situation deteriorates and residents once again are threatened, we will erect it again," he told Israel Radio.
Moshe Ben-Shoshan, a local official, said residents view the removal of the barrier with mixed feelings.
"I hope the other side won't take advantage of the situation because of the barrier's removal to provoke us. If they do I am sure the army will know how to respond," he told Israel radio.