BIDDO, West Bank - Israeli forces killed two Palestinians protesting against Israel's West Bank barrier Thursday, the first fatalities in demonstrations over the controversial project now under World Court review.
In the Gaza Strip, two Palestinian gunmen killed an Israeli soldier at an industrial zone on the border that is a rare example of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation amid conflict. Israeli security personnel then shot the gunmen dead.
A Palestinian is carried to an ambulance after he was injured during clashes with Israeli forces at the construction site of the part of the controversial Israeli security barrier near the West Bank village of Biddu, February 26, 2004. Israeli forces killed two Palestinians protesting against Israel's West Bank barrier on Thursday, the first fatalities in demonstrations over the controversial project now under World Court review. Witnesses in Biddo said Israeli forces opened fire in a confrontation with stone-throwers, killing two Palestinians. An Israeli police spokesman said he had no reports of live fire during the incident and that three policemen were injured. REUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen
Witnesses in the West Bank village of Biddo said Israeli forces opened fire in a confrontation with stone-throwers, killing two Palestinians.
The crowd was protesting over the start of construction of a section of the barrier at Biddo two days ago, and the demonstrations later spread to two nearby villages.
An Israeli police spokesman said he had no reports of live fire during the incident and that three policemen were injured. The army, whose units also regularly patrol the area and join forces with police operations, did not immediately comment.
A Reuters cameraman said police had fired in the air and used tear gas and stun grenades against a crowd of hundreds. The police spokesman said at least three Palestinians were arrested.
The two men killed in Biddo were the first to die in sporadic demonstrations in the past few months against the West Bank barrier, a project Israel says keeps suicide bombers out of its cities and which Palestinians call a land grab.
At the behest of the U.N. General Assembly, the International Court of Justice held three days of hearings in The Hague this week into the legality of the barrier, which snakes into Israeli-occupied land Palestinians want for a state.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, armed groups in Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, claimed responsibility for what they called a "martyrdom operation" at the Erez border crossing in the Gaza Strip.
The early morning attack, which an Israeli security source said wounded at least two other Israelis, coincided with the first meetings in three years of Fatah's Revolutionary Council, a key decision-making body, in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
© Copyright 2004 Reuters Ltd