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Israel kills two Palestinians in West Bank
Updated: 2005-10-22 11:49

Israeli soldiers shot and killed two Palestinians in the northern West Bank on Friday, Palestinian security officials said.

The shootings were the latest of a series of fatal incidents in the past week threatening to unravel an eight-month ceasefire and dash hopes that Israel's pullout from Gaza last month could lead to a resumption of peace talks.

Both sides gave conflicting accounts, and it was unclear whether the fatalities were a result of one or two separate incidents.

Palestinian witnesses said troops opened fire on unarmed protesters who threw stones at an army jeep, east of Tulkarm, a town in the northern West Bank, killing an 18-year-old youth.

Medics said the youth died immediately of his wounds.

But an Israeli military spokesman said soldiers had shot at gunmen who fired first at the troops and damaged a military vehicle. Soldiers later found one body near the scene, but believed they had shot two armed men, the spokesman said.

Palestinian officials said Israel had informed them of the second fatality but that they had not yet identified the body.

A spokesman for the Yasser Arafat Brigades, an offshoot of the militant wing of the mainstream Fatah movement, told Reuters Israel had killed one of its members in Tulkarm.

The same group had claimed responsibility for gunning down three young Jewish settlers on a road near the West Bank city of Bethlehem last week.

"As a first response" to the latest shooting, the militants said they attacked Israeli forces elsewhere in the northern West Bank with gunfire. There were no reported injuries.

The latest deaths mean three Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops since Thursday when soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man who threw a firebomb at an Israeli car in Bethlehem.

The Bethlehem shooting came amid spiralling tensions since the killings of the settlers last week for which Israel has retaliated by restricting Palestinian traffic on many West Bank roads and stepping up military patrols.

In a separate incident on Friday, a Palestinian policeman was critically wounded in Tulkarm as officers tried to break up a brawl between two Palestinian men on a city street outside a cafe.

Neither Palestinian involved in the brawl was believed to belong to militant groups fighting Israel.

Israel withdrew from Gaza last month but still occupies the West Bank.

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