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Tuesday, 11 December, 2001, 18:27 GMT
Palestinians bury Hebron children
Woman grieving at the funeral of the two children
Palestinians accuse Israeli PM of targeting children
Hundreds of angry Palestinian mourners have taken part in the funerals of the two children killed by Israeli troops in the city of Hebron on Monday.

The children - aged three and 13 - were killed in a failed assassination attempt targeting an Islamic Jihad activist, Mohammed Sidr. He survived the explosion but was seriously wounded.

Three-year-old Burhan al-Himouni killed on Monday
The three-year-old was killed and his father wounded

In a separate development, Palestinian militant groups condemned a European Union declaration that Islamic Jihad and Hamas are terrorist networks.

The accusation came amid continuing violence on Tuesday, with Israeli soldiers shooting dead two Palestinians in disputed circumstances in the West Bank.

Charred remains

About 3,000 Palestinians attended the youngsters' funeral.

The mourners carried the tiny three-year-old Burhan al-Himuni, his scorched body covered from view because his head was blown apart, according to witnesses.

Yasser Arafat
Mr Arafat is accused of an inadequate response to the violence

They said that for the first time in months, no gunmen participated in the procession following a Palestinian ban on carrying firearms in public.

After the end of prayers in a Hebron mosque, one of the mourners said: "Why doesn't the United Nations shoulder its responsibility and protect us?"

Israel has apologised for the killing, which Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo has described as "immoral".

Unrelenting violence

In the latest West Bank violence, the Israeli soldiers opened fire on the Palestinians' car after they ignored warning shots and refused to slow down at an army checkpoint near the town of Tulkarm, Israeli military radio reported.

But a Palestinian from Jaroushiyeh village near the checkpoint told Reuters news agency that she had seen soldiers chase two men into an olive grove on foot and then heard gunshots.


Palestinian officials said the two dead men were labourers working in Israel without permits.

The shootings come after Israeli helicopter gunships launched a new attack on the Palestinian territories, destroying a security post in the Gaza Strip.

It was a local command post for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's personal guard, Force 17.

There were no immediate reports of injuries. Israel has accused Force 17 of direct involvement in attacks on its people.

Hypocrites

The latest violence coincides with a new mediation visit to the region by the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana who earlier branded Hamas and Islamic Jihad "terrorist networks" and demanded that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat dismantle them.

But the groups have defended their own legitimacy and called on their supporters to continue the struggle against Israel's occupation.

One political faction, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said it was a hypocritical stance from the Europeans who, on numerous occasions, have expressed criticism of Israel's policies towards the Palestinians.

For its part, Hamas has dismissed the growing list of Western countries who consider the Islamic militant group terrorists.

Javier Solana
Mr Solana said the militant groups should be dismantled

A senior Hamas member in Gaza has told the BBC that the opinion of the Islamic world is that Hamas are defenders of the Palestinian people.

The arrival of Mr Solana in the region has further increased the number of international figures now on the scene to push the Palestinian leader to acquiesce to Israel's demands that he make more arrests.

However, speaking to the BBC's Kylie Morris in Gaza, a senior Hamas member, Said Siam, said that he doubts international pressure on Mr Arafat will succeed in convincing the Palestinian Authority to step up its programme of arrests of militants.

The US special envoy to the Middle East, Anthony Zinni, is continuing efforts to achieve a ceasefire.

But he is reported to have warned that he will end his peace mission within 48 hours unless there is real progress towards ending the violence.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Barbara Plett
"Ariel Sharon say's Europe is biased against Israel"
The BBC's Kylie Morris
"The worst may yet be to come"
See also:

10 Dec 01 | Middle East
EU adds to pressure on Arafat
09 Dec 01 | Middle East
New York solidarity with Israel
08 Dec 01 | Middle East
US urged to restrain Israelis
07 Dec 01 | Middle East
Turkish PM says Sharon targets Arafat
05 Dec 01 | Middle East
Mid-East splits Europe and US
04 Dec 01 | Middle East
Outrage at Israeli strikes
04 Dec 01 | Middle East
Arafat's Hamas problem
03 Dec 01 | profiles
Who are Hamas?
03 Dec 01 | profiles
Who are Islamic Jihad?
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