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 Sunday, 29 December, 2002, 13:19 GMT
Sharon defends killing of militants
Israeli investigators at scene of fatal attack in West Bank settlement on Friday
Israeli settlers were killed in an earlier restaurant attack
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said the killing of selected Palestinian militants remains necessary, despite claims it is counter-productive.

He issued his defiant defence after Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein criticised the policy of "targeted killings", saying it had to be carried out with the "utmost caution", Israeli army radio reported.

Mr Sharon said the murder of four Israeli settlers on Friday underscored the need to strengthen what he described as Israel's "war on terror".

Ariel Sharon arrives for his weekly cabinet meeting
Mr Sharon has been under pressure over the "targeted killing" plan
The settler attack came in response to the deaths of several militants the previous day - including several "targeted killings", Palestinians said.

There has been a marked increase in violence in recent days, with Palestinians officials saying two 11-year-old children had been killed in separate incidents in the West Bank and Gaza.

Correspondents say Mr Sharon has been under pressure over his administration's policy of hunting and killing people believed to be involved in organising, committing or aiding attacks against Israel.

Mr Blumenthal's criticism followed calls from a senior military official last month for the army to arrest militants rather than kill them.

Opponents say killing Palestinian militants can spur revenge attacks on Israelis - as was claimed in the settler attack - rather than protecting citizens.

Mr Sharon - who faces a general election next month - told his weekly cabinet meeting that the "targeted killings" would continue.

"The fight against terror must be increased, because our target is to harm the terrorists, their helpers and operators," Israeli media quoted him as saying.

Children shot

The cabinet meeting came hours after an 11-year-old boy was shot dead on his way home from school in the West Bank town of Tulkarm, according to Palestinian officials.

Witnesses said Abdelkarim Salameh was hit when Israeli troops fired at a group of schoolchildren who were throwing stones.

An Israeli army spokesman said soldiers fired rubber bullets and tear gas after they were attacked.

Palestinians carry body of local Islamic Jihad leader Hamza Abu Roub
Several Palestinian militants have been killed in the past few days
The shooting - in which Palestinians say another 11-year-old boy was injured - comes a day after medical officials said a girl was killed by Israeli firing in the Gaza Strip.

On Sunday, relatives held the funeral for Hanneen Abu Suleiman who was in her home when she was shot, according to reports from the area.

She was taken to a hospital near the Khan Younis refugee camp, but reportedly died two hours later.

A BBC correspondent says there are frequent exchanges of fire in the area between Palestinian fighters and Jewish settlers and Israeli soldiers.

Palestinian sources said Hanneen was killed by shooting from the nearby Jewish settlement of Neve Dekalim.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Jane Bennett-Powell
"Violence has surged dramatically"
  James Reynolds reports from Jerusalem
on Mr Sharon's comments about 'targeted killings'

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27 Dec 02 | Middle East
26 Dec 02 | Middle East
26 Dec 02 | Middle East
26 Sep 02 | Middle East
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