- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 22, 2003

JERUSALEM (AP) — Gunmen shot and killed two Israeli security guards yesterday. The incident took place at a construction site in an Arab neighborhood near a section of the disputed barrier that Israel is erecting along its frontier with the West Bank.

The shooting occurred hours after Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians, including a 10-year-old boy, after a stone-throwing clash in the West Bank escalated into a gun battle.

All four killings underscored the routine, daily violence that has characterized the 3-year-old conflict, which has killed more than 2,500 Palestinians and almost 900 Israelis. The new bloodshed occurred as efforts were under way to craft a cease-fire deal and restart frozen peace talks.

The Israeli security guards were shot at close range while guarding equipment near a section of a fence that is under construction. Three other guards at the site were unhurt and returned fire at the attacker, who escaped.

Palestinians have vehemently opposed Israel’s construction of the fence, which in places cuts into the West Bank, cutting off Palestinian land. Israel says the barrier is needed to prevent suicide bombers from entering its territory.

In the West Bank yesterday, about 35 Israeli peace activists traveled to the Palestinian village of Einabus with olive tree saplings to show their sympathy over the cutting of 250 olive trees there last month, apparently by Jewish settlers in the area.

Village resident Fawzi Hussein said the Israeli activists wanted to plant six olive saplings next to the grove where his trees were cut but the army would not let anyone into the area, calling it a closed military zone, in an apparent effort to prevent scuffles with the settlers.

“I said, ‘This is my land’ and the army said, ‘You have nothing to do here,’” Mr. Hussein said. The saplings brought by the group were left with school children.

Israeli police have said they are investigating the cutting of the trees but have not yet made any arrests.

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