Israeli troops have shot and killed two Palestinians who tried to stab a soldier, according to the Israeli army. The escalating violence in the West Bank has placed further strain on US efforts to get indirect peace talks under way. The deaths raised the number of Palestinians killed in the past two days to four, in violent incidents in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory. "Two men tried to stab a soldier during a routine patrol near the Awarta security crossing near Nablus. The force opened fire and confirmed their death," an army spokeswoman said.
Another Palestinian, shot by Israeli soldiers during clashes in the West Bank, died of his wounds today, medics at Nablus hospital said. Osayed Qadus, 20, was seriously wounded yesterday after being shot at Burin, south of Nablus, when Israeli troops soldiers opened fire on a group of protesters, according to medics and Palestinian security officials. The Palestinians have been protesting Jewish settlement policy in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - areas Israel captured and occupied in the 1967 war. Another Palestinian, 17-year-old Mohammed Qadus, was shot dead by Israeli fire during the same clashes, they said. Soldiers moved in to Burin, south of Nablus, to prevent clashes between Palestinians and Jewish settlers in the neighbouring settlement of Bracha. Villagers said the clashes broke out when settlers attacked the village and was unrelated to the organised protests against Israeli settlements that have rippled through the West Bank and east Jerusalem over the past two weeks. But the Israeli army said the Palestinians had been heading for the settlement and had hurled stones at soldiers trying to stop them. Troops had used tear gas and rubber bullets but not live rounds, an army spokesman said. The two deaths mark the first Palestinian fatalities since clashes with Israeli security forces erupted early March. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was set to meet US peace envoy George Mitchell later today. Mr Mitchell's efforts to restart peace negotiations suspended since December 2008 were dealt a setback two weeks ago after Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new homes for Jews in a settlement near East Jerusalem and Palestinians rescinded their agreement to begin indirect talks.
* Reuters and AFP