Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad says delegates at an investment conference in Bethlehem have pledged to invest nearly $1.5 billion for Palestinian business projects.

Mr. Fayyad says the proposed businesses could create up to 35,000 jobs, mostly in the West Bank.

He was speaking Friday at the end of a three-day conference convened in Bethlehem to attract foreign investment in the struggling Palestinian economy.

The West Bank's economy has been hampered by hundreds of Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints that restrict Palestinians' movement. Israel says those measures are needed for security reasons.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner says Israel can do more to ease restrictions in the West Bank without compromising security, and should do so.

Addressing the Bethlehem conference, Kouchner says excessive restrictions imposed by Israel obstruct the Palestinian economy and justify expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. He called the settlements an obstacle to peace as well as economic growth.

Meanwhile, Palestinian medics and witnesses said five Palestinian militants were killed Friday during separate clashes with Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian medical workers say an Israeli air strike killed three Palestinian militants during an Israeli military incursion near the town of Rafah. The military says an Israeli soldier was wounded by militants firing rocket-propelled grenades.

In a separate clash in central Gaza, the militant group Islamic Jihad said two of its fighters were killed by Israeli troops.


Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.