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Three Palestinians Die in Clashes with Israeli Troops - 2004-01-03

Palestinian hospital sources say three Palestinians were killed and a fourth wounded in clashes with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank town of Nablus early Saturday.

An Israeli military source said soldiers in Nablus opened fire in response to a barrage of stones thrown by dozens of protesters, while the city was under curfew. He said one of the men shot had been throwing a firebomb, another, he said, was armed with a pistol and a third had dropped a large concrete block toward an Israeli soldier positioned below him.

In a separate incident, Palestinian witnesses said a man was shot and seriously wounded as he walked in a funeral procession. They said Israeli troops opened fire on the man from a distance of several hundred meters. The witnesses said the shooting was unprovoked. The military said it was checking the report.

A roadside bomb blew up next to an Israeli army jeep in Nablus late Friday, but caused no casualties. The Islamic Jihad group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Also, late Friday, Israeli troops pushed back into the West Bank town of Jenin, only a day after lifting a four-month blockade there.

According to Palestinian security sources and witnesses, about a dozen tanks and jeeps moved back into the city to surround several houses sparking clashes with Palestinian gunmen.

On Thursday, Israeli troops lifted their barricade of Jenin which was imposed in mid-August following a suicide attack in Jerusalem.

An Israeli military spokesman said troops were merely conducting routine searches and the latest incursion is not a renewed occupation.

On Friday afternoon, Palestinian security forces in Bethlehem arrested an Israeli civil guard volunteer on suspicion of being an Israeli police officer. The man, an Israeli Arab resident of Abu Ghosh, who came to the West Bank city for a business meeting, was released after the intervention of senior security officers.

After his release, he was again arrested, by Israeli police this time, for violating the ban on Israelis entering a restricted area.