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Israeli Soldiers Kill 2 Palestinians in West Bank - 2001-12-11

Israeli soldiers have shot and killed two Palestinians in the West Bank. The continuing violence is threatening diplomatic efforts to end more than 14 months of conflict.

Israeli military sources say troops shot at a car carrying Palestinians which tried to break through an army checkpoint near the West Bank town of Tulkarem.

The army says the driver of the car ignored warning shots.

Palestinians, however, say the soldiers opened fire as the car slowed down to pass the barrier.

A Palestinian man, who says he was a passenger in the car, told the Reuters news agency that the two men were shot and killed after they fled the vehicle and troops chased them into a nearby olive grove.

Earlier, Israeli combat helicopters fired missiles into a security building in the Gaza Strip.

The post was used by members of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's elite Force 17 unit.

The building, which was heavily damaged, was evacuated before the attack and no injuries were reported.

The army says the air strike was in response to Palestinian mortar fire aimed at Jewish settlements in Gaza.

The violence came as European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana held talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Mr. Solana is meeting with Mr. Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and U.S. Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni.

The meetings follow a demand from the EU that Mr. Arafat end the current uprising against Israeli occupation.

The European Union also called for Mr. Arafat to dismantle what it said are the "terrorist networks" of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups.

The EU also says Israel should lift blockades of Palestinian areas, freeze the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, and stop "extra-judicial killings."

On Monday, an Israeli missile strike in the West Bank city of Hebron killed two Palestinian children, including a toddler.

The target of the attack was a militant in the Islamic Jihad organization the army says had orchestrated shootings that killed three Israeli civilians.

The militant, Mohammed Sidr, was wounded in the air strike. The army expressed regret for the deaths of the children.

Israel has launched a series of strikes against Palestinian targets following recent suicide bombings in Israel that have killed nearly 30 people and injured hundreds of others.