Deaths continue in relative calm of West Bank

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The Independent Online

The deaths of three Palestinian children in the West Bank this week served as a reminder that the other Middle East war is by no means over.

The deaths of three Palestinian children in the West Bank this week served as a reminder that the other Middle East war is by no means over.

A girl aged 10 was shot dead in Bethlehem when Israeli soldiers opened fire on the car she was travelling in, mistakenly thinking it was about to run them over. The soldiers had just killed three Hamas militants who had opened fire on them from another car.

In Jenin, Israeli soldiers shot dead a boy aged 14 who the Israeli army said had climbed on top of an armoured car. In a separate clash with youths throwing stones, a 15-year old boy was shot dead.

But relatively speaking, the situation in Israel and the occupied territories is calm.

There have been no suicide bombings since the American and British invasion of Iraq began. The Israeli government has relaxed after initially ordering Israelis to carry gas masks with them at all times.

The Israelis believe the American capture of air bases in western Iraq has made the chances of Iraq firing anything at Israel more remote. Ariel Sharon's government is still warning that it "reserves the right" to retaliate to any Iraqi missile attack.

In the occupied territories, there are signs that the Israeli government has reined in its military campaign after American pressure not to inflame Arab opinion during the Iraq war. Incursions into the Gaza Strip have stopped.

But Mr Sharon has pushed through political measures that would usually attract criticism, including plans to carve huge new tracts out of the West Bank with Israel's security fence.

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