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Friday, 23 November, 2001, 14:35 GMT
Palestinian killed after boys' funerals
Mourners carry the schoolboys' coffins draped in the Palestinian flag
Horror at the deaths will fuel calls for revenge
Israeli soldiers have shot dead a Palestinian teenager in clashes following the funerals of five Palestinian schoolboys killed by an explosion, witnesses say.

The killing comes as calls grow for an investigation into the deaths of the five boys.

They were blown up as they walked to school on Thursday by what the Palestinian Authority said was an Israeli booby-trap.
Palestinian boy Akram Naim al-Astal, one of the five schoolboys killed
Akram Naim al-Astal died in the blast

Following the funeral at the Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, clashes broke out between angry mourners and Israeli soldiers.

A teenager died after being shot in the head and two other Palestinians were also wounded when Israeli soldiers opened fire after youths hurled stones at them.

The Palestinian Authority demanded an international inquiry into what it called "the murder of innocent children".

Investigation

Israeli Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer expressed sorrow at the deaths and said officials were investigating the cause of the explosion.


An inquiry has been opened by the army into the circumstances of the incident and its conclusions will be submitted to the minister

Israeli Defence Ministry
Earlier Israeli security officials said a booby-trap intended for Palestinian snipers might have gone off.

Israeli Transport Minister Ephraim Sneh said the army had to give an explanation.

The deaths of the teenager and the schoolboys - brothers and cousins from the same family - threaten to undermine next week's United States peace mission, correspondents say.

'State terrorism'

Witnesses said the blast that killed the boys scattered charred body parts over a wide area.

Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi called the deaths a "massacre" and an example of "systematic state terrorism".


Tension has been high in Gaza for months, with Israeli tanks in position to protect the Jewish settlers who have made their homes on occupied Palestinian land nearby.

The United States has renewed its efforts to end more than a year of violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

The schoolboys died a day after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced that he would visit Washington next month for talks with US President George W Bush.

Desire for peace

A new opinion poll published in the Israeli newspaper Maariv suggests that 55% of Israelis believe their government should try harder to reach a peace settlement, with 59% backing an independent Palestinian state.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said he was sending Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs William Burns and former Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni to the Middle East on Sunday to try to arrange a truce.

Mr Powell called on the Palestinians to end violence against Israelis and for the Israelis to stop building settlements.

The Gaza Strip has been the scene of repeated clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinians over the past months.

Israeli forces have raided Palestinian-controlled territory on numerous occasions for what Israel calls security reasons.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Orla Guerin
"5 small bodies, on their way to the grave"
See also:

22 Nov 01 | World
Weapons that target children
21 Nov 01 | Middle East
US builds new Mid-East peace initiative
20 Nov 01 | Middle East
Mid-East awaits next US move
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