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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 February, 2004, 18:12 GMT
Two die in Israel barrier clashes
Clashes between Israeli troops and anti-barrier protesters
The two Palestinians are the first to be killed in anti-barrier protests
Two Palestinians have been killed during protests against Israel's security barrier in the West Bank.

Palestinian officials said the men died when Israeli troops fired on stone-throwing youths in a village where work on the barrier began two days ago.

At least 11 people were injured in the clashes at Bidou, which saw protesters try to halt the building work.

Earlier, two Palestinian gunmen were shot dead after killing an Israeli soldier at the Erez crossing in Gaza.

Hundreds of protesters took part in the demonstration at Bidou.

They threw stones and reportedly lay down in front of bulldozers which are preparing the ground for a new section of the controversial barrier.

According to witnesses, Israeli troops responded with live fire, rubber bullets and tear gas.

Troops injured

Two Palestinians men were killed - the first to die in protests over Israel's controversial barrier.

Ali Daoud, 24, said he had been throwing stones when he was shot in the right leg.

To the best of our knowledge our forces responded only with tear gas and rubber bullets
Israeli military source

"We were trying to prevent them from continuing the work on our land, but we found more than 200 soldiers there," he said from a hospital bed.

The demonstrations spread to nearby West Bank villages.

An Israeli military source, quoted by Reuters news agency, said: "It was a very violent confrontation and six security personnel were injured."

"To the best of our knowledge our forces responded only with tear gas and rubber bullets. We are investigating the reported fatalities," the source added.

The clashes come a day after a world court hearing into the barrier - which Israel says is necessary to maintain security - ended at The Hague.

'Civilians hurt'

The Palestinian militant group, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, has claimed responsibility for the attack which killed an Israeli soldier at the Erez crossing on Thursday morning.

Israeli soldiers returned fire and shot dead the two gunmen.

Reports say the gunfire lasted for some time, injuring several civilians.

The Erez crossing lies on the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Security has been tight at the crossing since January when a female Palestinian suicide bomber blew herself up, killing four Israelis.

Israel has now closed the crossing.

The BBC's Orla Guerin
"The West Bank's newest battle, provoked by Israel's separation barrier"

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