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Israeli Troops Kill Youth in Gaza - 2004-01-22


Palestinian officials say Israeli troops have shot and killed an 11-year-old Palestinian boy and wounded several other youths in the Gaza Strip. The officials said the soldiers opened fire on a group of Palestinian youths suspected of trying to sneak across the border into Israel.

The Israeli army says that troops shot at the legs of seven people seen carrying a ladder inside the Gaza Strip toward the security fence.

An Israeli army spokesman says the military suspects that what he called Palestinian terrorist groups sometimes dispatch minors to test for possible ways to cross the border. The spokesman says the youths are on a mission to help prepare armed groups to carry out terror attacks.

Palestinian officials deny the claims, saying the boys were hunting for birds near the security fence when they came under fire from Israeli soldiers.

The officials also say that on other days Palestinian farmers and other citizens, who have innocently strayed into zones close to the border, have been shot at by Israeli troops without warning.

Israel says it closely monitors the electronic security fence it has built around the Gaza Strip to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers and others from reaching its territory to carry out attacks.

Also in Gaza, Palestinian workers demonstrated against Israel's imposition of tough new security measures.

The measures were put into effect last week, after a Palestinian woman suicide bomber killed four Israeli guards at a Gaza border crossing.

Under the new rules, Palestinian workers must stand in line for hours before dawn, remove their outer garments and walk with their hands over their heads before being allowed entry into Israel.

An Israeli army spokeswoman says Israel was left with no other choice but to enforce such checks, in order to improve security at the border crossings.