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Palestinians: Two killed in barrier protest

Thousands come out against Israeli structure in West Bank

A Palestinian uses a slingshot in the West Bank village of Biddou in clashes Thursday with Israeli border police over Israel's security barrier.
A Palestinian uses a slingshot in the West Bank village of Biddou in clashes Thursday with Israeli border police over Israel's security barrier.

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Israeli troops fire tear gas in clashes with Palestinian protesters over the security barrier.
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An Israeli man says he wonders if his daughter would be alive if there had been a security barrier earlier.
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Palestinian farmers must get permits and go through an Israeli barrier to get to their farmland.
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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Two Palestinians were killed Thursday when Israeli soldiers clashed with about 1,500 demonstrators protesting Israel's security barrier in the West Bank, witnesses and Palestinian medical sources said.

Israeli security sources said some of the demonstrators threw rocks and stones at the Israeli forces, wounding six soldiers.

Witnesses said the protesters were attempting to stop construction of the barrier in the West Bank village of Biddou when Israeli forces opened fire. Twenty-one people were wounded in the clash, Palestinian medical sources said.

Israel Defense Forces declined to comment, but Israeli security sources denied live ammunition was used, saying rubber bullets and tear gas were fired at the crowd.

In the nearby village of Beit Surik, witnesses said about 2,000 Palestinian protesters also demonstrated against the barrier.

The Israeli government has said the winding barrier, which juts into sections of the West Bank, is necessary to keep terrorists out of Israel.

The Palestinians have said the barrier amounts to an illegal land grab of Palestinian territory because it does not match the line of Israel's border with the West Bank before the 1967 Six-Day War.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said the structure is counterproductive to the "road map" to Mideast peace, which calls for steps by Israel and the Palestinians to end their conflict and establish an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

Protests follow world hearings

The IDF said its soldiers were bracing for possible violent protests this week during hearings about the barrier at the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Netherlands.

On Wednesday, the court ended three days of hearings into Palestinian allegations that the barrier violates international law. The world court took up the matter following requests from Palestinian leaders and the U.N. General Assembly.

The world body has not ruled on the case, and its decision is nonbinding. (Full story)

IDF: Israeli soldier dies in Gaza

Also Thursday, an Israeli soldier was killed near Gaza's Erez Crossing by two Palestinian gunmen, according to the IDF. Israeli soldiers then shot and killed the gunmen, the IDF said.

The Israeli military said its forces were responding to intelligence alerts when they came across two Palestinians carrying assault rifles and hand grenades.

The two men opened fire, killing the Israeli, the IDF said. Additional troops arrived, and Israeli forces killed the Palestinians, according to the IDF.

Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- the military wing of Arafat's Fatah movement -- claimed responsibility for the attack.

Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades has carried out numerous attacks against military targets and civilians in Israel and in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. In March 2002, the U.S. State Department designated it as a foreign terrorist organization.

Witnesses: Israeli jeeps surround Arafat's compound

Later Thursday, Israeli military jeeps surrounded Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, witnesses said. An Israeli army spokesman said the vehicles were conducting routine patrols in the area.

Arafat has called on Palestinians and the international community to protest what he calls "the wall of annexation and expansion."

"We call on the Israeli people, especially those who are for peace, to reject and halt this settlement expansion," Arafat said in a televised address this week.

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