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Jewish Settlers Accidentally Killed by Israeli Troops - 2003-03-13

Two security guards from a West Bank Israeli settlement were killed Thursday in an apparent accidental shooting by Israeli troops.

Israel radio says Israeli troops opened fire on the car by mistake. It described the incident as an operational error.

Witnesses said the vehicle carrying the two Israelis was struck by what they described as 'a heavy volume of precise fire.'

Some accounts said an Israeli helicopter gunship had fired a missile at the car. Other witnesses said Israeli troops on the ground had fired on it, killing its two occupants.

Israel Army Radio said Israeli troops had been searching for suspected Palestinian militants in the Hebron area at the time of the incident, and that there was a 'high probability' the settlers were killed by friendly fire.

In the last 2.5 years of Israeli-Palestinian violence, Israeli forces have killed dozens of Palestinian suspects in targeted attacks.

Israeli troops have been on special alert for possible attacks in and around Hebron over the past several days.

The army has reinforced its military presence there, following a series of Palestinian attacks on settlers and soldiers in Hebron and the nearby Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba.

Initial reports had suggested that Palestinian gunmen dressed as Israeli soldiers had ambushed the car as it approached a road intersection near the Jewish settlement of Pnei Hever, which is located south of the West Bank town of Hebron.