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US Expresses Concern Over Israeli Demolition of Palestinian Houses

The United States again expressed concern Monday over Israel's use of house demolitions in military operations against Palestinian extremists in Gaza. The comments follow weekend raids in Gaza in which a number of Palestinian civilians died. In one incident a pregnant woman was killed by falling debris as Israeli troops demolished houses said to have been used by suicide bombers.

The State Department says it understands Israel's right to defend itself and said it is urging Palestinians to immediately end terror and violence against Israelis which it said has already "gravely undermined" Palestinian political hopes. But it also says it is "seriously concerned" about civilian victims in Israeli military operations in Palestinian areas, with spokesman Richard Boucher citing in particular casualties resulting from Israel's "increasing" use of demolitions.

"Demolition of civilian structures deprives Palestinians of shelter and the ability to peacefully earn a livelihood," Mr. Boucher said. "It exacerbates the humanitarian situation inside the Palestinian areas and makes more difficult the critical challenge of bringing about an end to violence and the restoration of calm."

Mr. Boucher said the United States has urged Israel to take "all appropriate precautions" to prevent the death or injury of innocent civilians and damage to civilian and humanitarian infrastructure, and said U.S. officials are in close touch with leaders on both sides to try to prevent further bloodshed.