Israeli troops kill three Palestinians in West Bank, Gaza

HEBRON\ WEST BANK: The Israeli army killed a Palestinian who it said tried to ram his car into soldiers near Hebron on Friday, and medics said another Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli forces during a violent demonstration in the flashpoint West Bank city.

Violence also flared up on Friday in the Islamist Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, where Palestinians massed at the fenced-off border with Israel, throwing rocks at troops beyond. Army gunfire killed a 38-year-old Palestinian and wounded 58 others, Gaza medics said.

A campaign of stabbings, shootings and car-rammings by Palestinians has killed 19 Israelis and a US citizen since the start of October. Israeli forces have killed 109 Palestinians, around two-thirds of whom the army identified as assailants.

Palestinians are frustrated at the failure of long-running peace efforts with Israel and its 48-year occupation of the West Bank. Many sympathise with Hamas calls for Israel's destruction.

The bloodshed has also been fuelled by Muslim agitation over stepped-up Israeli access to Jerusalem's al Aqsa mosque complex, which many Jews revere as a vestige of their biblical temples.

Near Hebron, a large West Bank city where both anti-Israel activism and friction with Jewish settlers are strong, a Palestinian motorist tried to ram troops at a checkpoint who then shot him dead, the army said.

"We saw the martyr's car parked and he stepped out of it and they fired around 15 bullets at him," Osama Ahmed Tarawa, a Palestinian who said he was working at a construction site nearby at the time of the incident, told Reuters.

Citing an initial investigation, an army spokeswoman said that after crashing into the checkpoint, the motorist emerged from the car carrying a knife, apparently intent on stabbing the soldiers. A relative of the dead man gave his age as 55.

In the second incident in Hebron, the army said troops fired at Palestinians who attacked them with rocks and petrol bombs after non-lethal riot-dispersal measures failed. Palestinians said a 22-year-old local man was fatally shot in the chest.

Earlier on Friday, Israeli officials said a Palestinian gunman fired at a checkpoint on the northern West Bank boundary, causing no casualties, and was then shot by guards and fled.

The United States, the European Union and the United Nations have expressed concern about the rising death toll, urging both sides to apply restraint, while also recognising Israel's right to self-defence in the face of the street attacks.