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Israeli Army Officer Charged With Shooting Death of 4 Palestinians - 2003-10-04

An Israeli army officer has been arrested and charged with manslaughter in connection with a shooting incident in the West Bank town of Jericho which left four Palestinians dead, including three children.

The unnamed Israeli Army lieutenant has been charged with causing the deaths when he ordered tanks to fire on Palestinians to enforce a curfew in Jenin.

The shooting incident took place in June, 2002. It was one in a series of incidents which Palestinians have characterized as indiscriminate shootings routinely carried out by the Israeli military over the past three years of the Palestinian uprising. Such incidents rarely lead to criminal charges.

In other developments, the United States has criticized Israeli plans to build more homes in Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories. The State Department said such acts are "unhelpful" to the peace process and will be taken into account when the United States next reviews its loan guarantees to Israel.

Israel announced Thursday that it will build nearly 600 new homes inside the West Bank.

Palestinians say Israel is trying to seize land before the borders of an independent Palestinian state are negotiated. Israel also says it is going ahead with construction of a security barrier that cuts deep into the West Bank. The Israeli Defense Forces have approved plans to build 400-meter buffer zones around 17 Jewish settlements. Three are currently under construction. Nearly 100 settlements have applied to be inside the zones, which would ring the communities and be off-limits to Palestinians.

Security guards would be authorized to open fire on intruders and those who have not been granted prior permission to enter the communities.

The plan is meant to give protection to those Jewish settlements that fall outside a security barrier now under construction in the West Bank.

In New York, the Palestinian U.N. envoy is urging a resolution be adopted that demands Israel reverse its decision to extend the barrier.

On Friday, Israel closed off the Palestinian territories, citing security concerns ahead of the Yom Kippur holiday, which begins Sunday evening.