Three more Palestinians killed in Gaza

GAZA, Reuters

Two Palestinians were killed in a shootout on Saturday after they ambushed an Israeli patrol near a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army said.

A teenage Palestinian protester also died when Israeli troops fired on a stone-throwing crowd near the Erez checkpoint between Gaza and Israel, and a fourth Palestinian died of wounds from violence on the West Bank on Friday, hospital sources said.

The latest casualties raised the known death toll in 45 days of violence to 200. Almost all the dead were Palestinians.

The army said the two Gaza men opened fire on an Israeli patrol near the settlement of Kfar Drom and were killed when soldiers shot back. Two Israeli soldiers were wounded.

Palestinian officials confirmed the killings, but were unable to give further details.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said: “There were two Palestinians who shot and wounded our soldiers. We returned fire and they were killed and (the bodies) are in our hands.”

Witnesses said Israeli troops blew up the car after using a wheeled robot — a measure used against the risk of booby traps — to remove the Palestinian bodies, then sealed off the area. Israelis, Palestinians

exchange fire Witnesses reported gunfire near Kfar Drom later between Israeli troops and Palestinian civilians angry at seeing the two bodies loaded into army jeeps. Hospital officials said at least three Palestinians were wounded in those confrontations.

The army spokeswoman said she did not know when the bodies would be handed over to Palestinian authorities.

“We know there are two Palestinian martyrs near the Gush Katif crossroad. We have asked our Israeli counterparts to provide the names but they haven’t yet,” said Colonel Khaled Abu al-Ula, head of the military liaison unit in southern Gaza.

The Israeli army said the two soldiers were wounded during the exchange of gunfire, one critically, and that they were evacuated to Israel for treatment.

A convoy carrying U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson was held up by army security measures after the incident and was escorted on back roads to get out of the area.

Hani Marzouq, 37, a Palestinian protester in Jenin, succumbed in a West Bank hospital to neck and chest wounds. Gaza hospital officials said Basil Abu Qamar, about 15 years old, died from a chest wound sustained in the new Erez clash.

At least nine other Palestinians were wounded at Erez, hospital officials said.

Four Palestinians, an Israeli Arab and an Israeli soldier were killed in widespread clashes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Friday. About 150 Palestinians were wounded.

The violence between independence seeking Palestinians and Israeli security forces has undermined a seven-year-long peace process launched to end a half century of conflict. Funerals in Gaza, West Bank Hundreds of protesters bore the body of Osama al-Jerjawi, 17, wrapped in the Palestinian flag through the streets of Palestinian-ruled Gaza on Saturday. Al-Jerjawi was shot dead at the Karni junction between Israel and Gaza the previous day.

“We will avenge your blood,” the mourners shouted. Several fired guns into the air. Mourners also buried Mohammed Hamed, 24, killed by a bullet to the head at the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza on Friday.

In the West Bank town of Hebron, hundreds of mourners flooded the streets for the funeral of Raed Mohtaseb, 27, killed on Friday night when the car in which he was travelling with family members came under gunfire.

“The blood of the martyrs is calling us,” they chanted, holding large Palestinian flags above their heads.

Mohtaseb’s father Saedi, who was driving the vehicle at the time and is a leading member of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s mainstream Fatah party, said the attack was an Israeli army assassination attempt. The army rejected the charges.

“The IDF (Israeli army) denies any attempt to assassinate a Fatah member or a senior official of the Palestinian Authority …The IDF only fires in case of danger of death for its soldiers,” the army said in a statement.

On Thursday, an Israeli helicopter missile strike on a vehicle in the Palestinian town of Beit Sahour, near Bethelehem, killed a local Fatah leader, Hussein Abayat, and two bystanders.