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Israel Investigates Shooting During Security Barrier Protests

Israel has launched two formal inquiries into an incident in which soldiers opened fire on a protest demonstration against the security barrier it is building to separate Israel from the West Bank.

The head of the Israel army's central command, Major General Moshe Kaplinsky, has appointed a colonel to investigate what happened.

The probe is to consider whether the troops had just cause for shooting and wounding an Israeli man and an American woman during a protest on Friday.

The head of the Israeli parliamentary foreign affairs and defense committee, Yuval Steinitz, also announced he will conduct his own inquiry into the affair.

His announcement followed strong political reaction from other members of the ruling Likud Party, including Ehud Yatom.

Mr. Yatom condemned the shooting, saying the soldiers should not have opened fire on civilians who did not threaten their lives.

Some 100 people, mostly Palestinians, but also Israeli and foreign activists, took part in the demonstration. Israeli military officials say the protest turned violent when some of the demonstrators tried to cut through the fence.

The soldiers fired warning shots in the air, but this failed to disperse the crowd.

Israeli officials confirmed that the troops fired live ammunition at the protesters when they began using wire cutters on the Palestinian side of the barrier.

Israeli television showed video footage of the incident. When the soldiers fired the warning shots as the protesters shook the fence, the demonstrators are heard yelling in Hebrew: Don't shoot.

Israel Radio reported that the troops are trained to shoot only when their lives are in danger.

But Israeli military officials insisted the soldiers operated according to procedure, because anyone who attacks the barrier is considered suspicious.

The officials told Israel Radio that the soldiers who fired on the crowd were following a clear order from their commander.