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2 Palestinians Die, Dozens Injured in West Bank Clash


Two Palestinians are dead and dozens of people are reported injured in a confrontation with Israeli security forces in the West Bank, just hours after two Palestinians and one Israeli died in a shooting attack at the main crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The latest violence occurred in the West Bank village of Bidou, near Jerusalem, where Palestinian demonstrators clashed with Israeli troops. Palestinian officials say two men were shot dead by the soldiers.

Thousands of Palestinians turned out for the second day in a row in Bidou and nearby Beit Surik to protest against the barrier Israel is building in and around the West Bank.

The demonstrators apparently tried to stop construction workers from putting up a new section of the barrier. Security forces reportedly used rubber-coated bullets and tear gas to push back the demonstrators. Witnesses say the soldiers also fired live ammunition.

Earlier, two Palestinian gunmen opened fire at the Erez crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, killing one Israeli soldier before they were shot dead by security personnel.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, claimed responsibility for the attack.

On Wednesday, Israeli security forces raided several banks in the West Bank city of Ramallah and hauled away close to nine-million dollars from accounts the Israelis say were used to fund terrorist activities.

One Palestinian newspaper called Wednesday's raids armed robbery, while Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said they smacked of mafia tactics.

The State Department also criticized the raids, saying it would be better if Israel coordinated with the Palestinians to track and freeze assets earmarked for militant attacks.

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