Mon, Jul 05, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Israeli gunfire kills 2 children

STRIFE CLAIMS FIVE An Israeli died in an ambush and police shot a fleeing man as Israeli politicians again advised the UN's highest court to butt out

REUTERS AND AFP , JERUSALEM AND JENIN, WEST BANK

A young brother of Ihab Shakat, 9, is comforted by fellow mourners as he cries in Gaza City on Saturday. Shakat was killed by Israeli gunfire as was a second Palestinian child, medics said, but the Israeli army insisted that troops had fired only "warning shots."

PHOTO: AFP

An Israeli settler in the West Bank, a militant trying to infiltrate a Jewish settlement and a Palestinian pursued by police in a Jerusalem car chase were killed yesterday.

On Saturday, Israeli soldiers shot dead two Palestinian boys aged nine and 15, medics said. Also on Saturday, soldiers killed a Palestinian civilian in Balata refugee camp in the West Bank, a militant stronghold.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group within Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, claimed responsibility for killing the settler in a roadside ambush of his car near the West Bank city of Jenin.

The brigades called the shooting revenge for Israel's killing of its West Bank leader on June 26.

Several hours earlier soldiers killed a Palestinian gunman who the army said was trying to infiltrate the settlement of Har Bracha near the West Bank city of Nablus.

In Jerusalem, paramilitary border police in civilian clothes shot dead a Palestinian after chasing his vehicle, which they suspected was carrying Palestinians without entry permits, a police spokesman said.

"The van tried to run down one of the policemen ... and then pulled over and stopped. The driver got out and fled on foot. Police fired in the air, and when he didn't stop, shot towards him. He was fatally wounded," he said.

Israeli troops have been operating in Beit Hanoun since a rocket that militants fired from the area killed two people in the southern Israeli town of Sderot last Monday.

Military sources have said the soldiers could remain in northern Gaza for months.

Violence has surged in Gaza since Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he planned to pull out soldiers and settlers by the end of next year, as Palestinian militants and the army vie for supremacy before a withdrawal.

Meanwhile, the order from Israel's supreme court to reroute the West Bank separation barrier shows there is no need for the world court to intervene, Israeli political leaders said yesterday.

"I believe that, after the ruling of the Israeli high court of justice, it is obvious to everyone that our judicial system can provide an appropriate response to all Palestinian claims and complaints," Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told army radio.

Shalom's comments come ahead of an expected verdict from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday on the legality of the barrier, which Israel is widely expected to lose.

The government is readying for defeat in the non-binding judgement by the highest UN legal body.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was also quoted as telling yesterday's Cabinet meeting that the supreme court's order to reroute the barrier near Jerusalem after a petition by Palestinian residents should be used "as a juridical answer to the web of lies being woven against Israel" at the ICJ.

He said that a new route would be finalized within a few weeks in order to comply with the court ruling that while the barrier could be justified for security reasons, the current path violated the rights of some 35,000 Palestinians living in the area. Israel has already made clear that it has no intention of scrapping the whole barrier, regardless of the ICJ verdict.

While Israel faced a barrage of criticism at hearings in The Hague in February, all the major world powers restricted their input to written submissions, arguing that the courtroom was an inappropriate venue for the issue to be subjected to international debate.

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