Two Palestinians are shot dead despite the ceasefire

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The Independent Online

Despite a wobbly truce, and Israel's frequently repeated claim that it is not to blame for the violence in the occupied territories, its troops shot another two Palestinians yesterday.

Despite a wobbly truce, and Israel's frequently repeated claim that it is not to blame for the violence in the occupied territories, its troops shot another two Palestinians yesterday.

Palestinian doctors said that one of the victims was a 28-year-old man who died after being shot through the heart, while the other was a 16-year-old schoolboy shot in the head during unrest at a refugee camp near the Israeli border.

The latest deaths, both in the Gaza Strip, mean that a dozen people have died - 10 Palestinians, and two Jewish Israelis killed by a bomb in Jerusalem - since the ceasefire was agreed early last Thursday by the former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres and the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. According to Palestinian sources, these include a 14-year-old girl who was shot in the head while walking home from school on Saturday and a three-month baby who was suffocated by tear gas in Hebron.

The truce has produced a significant dip in the bloodshed, and Israeli officials now acknowledge that Mr Arafat has ordered an end to the shooting on his side. But scattered fighting, including the occasional use of tanks and heavy machine-guns, continues.

Palestinian gunmen fired on Israeli soldiers and citizens several times yesterday. The Israeli army has also continued to kill rioters - part of a larger tactic of steadily pressurising the Palestinian population into abandoning its uprising.

The death toll - believed to be 173 - is so large, and the shooting of young Arab rioters so regular, that public opinion and the media have generally grown immune to the impact, though human rights groups say they could amount to war crimes.

Yesterday the Israeli army denied the killing of the 16-year-old boy, and accused the Palestinians of releasing false information. It said the boy was shot in the leg after trying to infiltrate Israeli territory.

Mr Arafat and Ehud Barak are expected to go to Washington this week for separate talks with Bill Clinton. The Palestinian leader is likely to meet the President on Thursday; Mr Barak is expected to go a day or two later. Whether these meetings will achieve anything substantial in the long term remains in doubt.

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