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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 May, 2005, 10:11 GMT 11:11 UK
Israel inquiry over teen deaths
Relatives mourn the death of the two boys in Ramallah
Relatives gathered at hospital, but the boys had died en route
An Israeli army commander has been suspended after the fatal shooting of two Palestinian teenagers during a protest against the West Bank barrier.

The boys, aged 14 and 15, were among a group throwing stones at bulldozers and troops in Beit Lakia, near Ramallah.

Army sources initially said troops used live fire only because "there was a danger to their lives". A full inquiry into the incident will now be held.

A top general called the commander's conduct "unreasonable", reports say.

"The company commander was suspended in light of errors - both in the way he conducted himself and in the way in which he led his force," the army is quoted as saying.

Barrier building

An initial investigation said the officer - from the Combat Engineering Corps - decided his men should open fire at the lower body of one of the ringleaders of Wednesday night's protest.

Before that, the army said, he had attempted to disperse the crowd of 300 protestors using tear gas and rubber bullets.

Some protestors had surrounded troops and were throwing stones and metal objects, the army says.

"The troops were surrounded and he (the commander) felt that their life was in danger," an army source is quoted saying by AFP.

Palestinian activists named the dead teenagers as Jamal Jaber and Uday Mofeed.

They said the protest began against the destruction of farmland for the construction of the barrier that Israel is building - often jutting deep into the occupied West Bank.

The Stop the Wall group says protestors were chased by Israeli soldiers using live ammunition.

Crowds of villagers then swarmed onto the streets in an effort to protect them, but troops followed and continued shooting, the group says.

'Violation'

The Stop the Wall group says the two boys were evacuated by ambulance to Ramallah, but both bled to death before they reached hospital after being held up by Israeli troops at a permanent checkpoint.

"This is a violation of the ceasefire. Israel is looking for excuses to raise tensions and to depart from implementing... understandings," Palestinian official Nabil Abu Rdeina told Reuters news agency.

Israel says its West Bank barrier, a network of fortified fences and concrete walls, is a defence against Palestinian suicide bombers.

Palestinians say the barrier is a means of cementing Israel's hold on occupied Palestinian land.


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