Two children killed by Israeli army


MIDDLE EAST: Israeli  troops killed two Palestinian children in incidents in the West Bank and Gaza Strip at the weekend. Meanwhile the country's attorney general yesterday took Prime Minister Mr Ariel Sharon, to task for having reportedly ordered the army to intensify the policy of assassinating Palestinian militiamen.

An 11-year-old boy was killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank city of Tul Karm yesterday after troops opened fire on boys throwing stones at an army jeep. The director of the local hospital said the boy, Abdel Karim Salameh, had been killed by a shot to the head. The army said troops had fired rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas at the stone-throwers.

On Saturday night, Palestinians said soldiers shot dead a 9-year-old girl, Hanin Abu Suleiman, near the Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis. Witnesses said the girl was hit by gunfire from the direction of a nearby settlement as she walked in the street. The army said that troops had returned fire after being targeted by gunmen in the area, but had no knowledge of anyone being hit.

At the weekly cabinet meeting yesterday, attorney general Mr Elyakim Rubinstein criticised Mr Sharon's decision to step up what Israel calls "targeted killings" of Palestinian militants. Mr Rubinstein told ministers that the policy, which has been strongly criticised by human rights groups, should only be employed as a last resort and after all other efforts to arrest someone on the army's wanted list had been exhausted.

Mr Sharon responded by saying that the media had distorted his remarks to his Defence Minister, Mr Shaul Mofaz, about stepping up the targeted hits after the killing of four seminary students by a Palestinian gunman at a West Bank settlement on Friday evening.

However, Mr Sharon reportedly added that there should be "no misunderstandings. I concluded with the defence minister that we must step up the fight against terror."

Meanwhile, Mr Rubinstein has failed to have a far-right Jewish extremist, Mr Baruch Marzel, barred from running in Israel's general elections on January 28th. Despite the attorney general's position that, as a former member of the Kach movement, which was banned eight years ago in Israel because of its racist attitudes, Mr Marzel should be barred, the Central Elections Committee voted yesterday not to disqualify him.