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Friday, 6 September, 2002, 20:25 GMT 21:25 UK
Israeli soldiers cleared over deaths
Israeli border police officers patrol on the east Jerusalem side of Abu Dis
Security has been tightened for Jewish New Year
The Israeli army has said that its soldiers were acting correctly when they killed 12 Palestinians - including several children - in three separate incidents over the past two weeks.

After an investigation into the incidents, carried out by the army itself, military officials concluded that it had been appropriate to issue the order to open fire on two of the occasions.

In the third incident, the authorities said that two children and two teenagers had been killed "by mistake" when a missile attack launched by the Israeli army missed its target.

The defence minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, "complimented the army on the thorough inquiries," statement read.

'Suspicious' mother

The three incidents the Israeli army absolved itself of included the deaths of a mother and her two sons in the Gaza Strip on 28 August.

Travellers are questioned at a West Bank checkpoint
Main Gaza roads have been closed in an Israeli security operation
They were killed with flechettes - needle-like ammunition which sprays into a wide area.

They had, according to the army, been behaving suspiciously.

Three days later, two children and two teenagers were killed by the missile in the West Bank village of Tubas, near Nablus.

A day later, four Palestinians were killed in an army ambush close to a Jewish settlement near the southern West Bank town of Hebron.

The Israeli army says they were preparing for an attack.

Palestinians say they were walking home from work.

Curfews imposed

Israel has meanwhile imposed curfews on most West Bank towns and frozen Palestinian travel, saying it wants to keep out militants for the Jewish New Year holiday.

The restrictions have confined more than 630,000 Palestinians to their homes.

Soldiers also closed off main roads in Gaza to stop the transfer of weapons, officials said.

The road blocks followed an Israeli air raid on Thursday night in the Gaza Strip in which several missiles were fired at a metal workshop.

Military officials said they suspected the factory near the Palestinian police station at Khan Younis was making weapons for militants.

Israel has attacked Palestinian factories before, saying they are used for making explosives, rockets and mortars for use in attacks against Israelis.

But the workshop's owner, Abu Khalil, said that only parts for electric generators were made.


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