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Friday, 16 August, 2002, 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK
Israelis raze militants' homes
Israeli bus destroyed by suicide bomber
Seventeen Israelis died in one of the attacks
Israeli forces have destroyed the family homes of two Palestinian militants in the West Bank as part of their continuing campaign against suicide bombers.

One of the houses, near the town of Tulkarm, belonged to the family of an Islamic Jihad militant, Iyad Sawalha.

Map showing main West Bank towns
Israel has reoccupied most of the West Bank
He is said to have helped organise the bombing of a bus near the northern Israeli town of Meggido in June, in which 17 people died, and is reportedly in hiding.

Troops also razed the house of Morad Mohammed Abu Asal in Anabta, also near Tulkarm. He died in a January suicide attack in an Arab village in northern Israel that wounded two Israeli security officials.

Since it reoccupied most of the West Bank in June, the Israeli army has repeatedly raided towns and villages in the hunt for suspected militants.

Relatives of suspected militants have had their homes demolished and been threatened with expulsion to the Gaza Strip.

Human rights organisations have condemned the policy as collective punishment violating international law.

Palestinian officials say the Israelis have destroyed their security services in the West Bank, and as a result they are unable to prevent militants planning attacks against Israelis.

Thursday saw Palestinian officials accuse the Israeli army of killing a five-year-old boy in Gaza.

They said troops opened fire on a residential area of Khan Yunis, killing Ayman Fares and wounding two relatives when they went to his rescue.

But the Israeli army denied any knowledge of the death, saying that its own men were attacked by gunmen in the area and had returned fire.

'Human shields'

In a separate incident in the West Bank, an Israeli human rights group has condemned the killing of a Palestinian teenager.

Nidal Abu Mohsen, 19, was shot dead when he tried to enter a house sheltering leading Hamas militant Nasser Jarrar in the village of Tubas on Wednesday.

Palestinian sources said he had been forced to do so by Israeli soldiers besieging the house.

Leading Israeli human rights group B'Tselem has condemned the Israeli army for its use of Palestinians as "human shields" during raids on militants.

The army admits to the practice, but refers to it as the "neighbour procedure".

"Using civilians as if they were bullet-proof vests and turning them into objects whose sole purpose is to protect soldiers is neither legal nor moral," it said. "Whatever the circumstances, soldiers must not endanger the lives of civilians to protect their own."

The Israeli army maintains that the dead teenager was trying to negotiate Jarrar's surrender when militants inside shot him dead, provoking a bloodbath in which Jarrar was also killed.


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