Israelis kill 3 in shooting

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The Independent Online
ISRAELI soldiers killed three Palestinians and wounded four when they fired on a van at a roadblock near Hebron in the West Bank yesterday, writes Patrick Cockburn in Jerusalem.

As news spread, protests and stone-throwing erupted in the city, which was partitioned between Palestinians and Israeli settlers in 1997.

Palestinian police say the van went out of control near the checkpoint, while the Israelis say it tried to run down a soldier. Despite the stalemate in peace negotiations, there has been little violence on the West Bank in recent months.

The shooting happened at an army roadblock near the Palestinian villages of Tarkoumiah and Idna, on the main road linking Israel and the West Bank. After the shooting two bodies lay on the ground next to the white van, the back window of which was riddled by bullets. Israeli soldiers carried a wounded passenger out of the van on a stretcher, his arm hooked to a drip and breathing through an oxygen mask.

"The Palestinian car came and tried to hit a soldier at the checkpoint and to go through the checkpoint," said an Israeli military source. "When they kept on going after hitting the soldier, the soldiers opened fire and hit the Palestinians in the car." Lafi Ghais, a Palestinian witness, disputed this: "They entered the checkpoint normally and then all of sudden all we heard was shooting from three automatic weapons."

Although Yassir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, has wanted to avert outbreaks of violence while he tries to get the US to put pressure Israel to fulfil the Oslo accords, there is frustration among Palestinians at the lack of progress. The Palestinian intifada, or uprising, began in 1987 after several Palestinians were killed in a traffic accident in Gaza.