Three Palestinians killed in West Bank, Gaza

Halhul (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - Three Palestinians were killed Friday in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, one after allegedly attempting to run down Israeli soldiers and the others in clashes with troops.

Palestinian youths fought Israeli forces near the northern entrance of the West Bank city of Hebron, and the soldiers responded with live fire, witnesses said.

"Uday Jihad Irshaid, 22, was killed by live ammunition in his chest during clashes in Hebron," the Palestinian health ministry said.

The Israeli military confirmed using live rounds but not the fatality.

"A violent riot is taking place in Hebron. Hundreds of Palestinians are attacking forces, hurling rocks and rolling burning tyres at them," a spokeswoman said.

"In order to disperse the crowd, (forces fired) .22 calibre rounds towards the main instigators and warning shots into the air."

Irshaid's 17-year-old sister Dania was killed six weeks ago after trying to stab security forces, according to Israeli police.

On the border with the Hamas-run coastal enclave of Gaza, a Palestinian was shot dead and 12 wounded in clashes with Israeli forces on the other side of the fence.

The Palestinian health ministry said Sami Maadi, 41, died in the incident, east of the Al-Bureij refugee camp.

An army spokeswoman said "hundreds" of rioters breached the buffer zone between Gaza and Israel, prompting forces to fire on them with live ammunition.

"Hits were confirmed," she said.

In total 58 people were wounded by live fire in Gaza in four protests in the north, centre and south, the health ministry said.

- Attack at crossing -

Earlier Friday, a 57-year-old Palestinian was shot dead as he tried to drive his car into a military checkpoint at Halhul, near Hebron, the army said.

"A Palestinian attempted to ram his vehicle into security forces near Hebron" in the south of the territory, a statement said.

Forces there "shot the attacker, resulting in his death," it said, adding that no Israelis were hurt.

Palestinian security sources identified the driver as Issa Haroub from Dir Samat village west of Hebron.

About an hour beforehand, a Palestinian fired at Israeli forces at a crossing between the northern West Bank and Israel and was shot and wounded, the Israeli defence ministry said.

"An armed Palestinian assailant fired shots on the Gilboa crossing from several dozen metres (yards) away," said the ministry, which employs civilian guards at the site.

"No casualties or damage have been reported to the crossing or its operators. The assailant, wounded, was picked up by a van and fled the scene," it added.

The checkpoint is one of the main crossings in the area.

Since October 1, near daily attacks and clashes between Palestinians and security forces have killed 116 on the Palestinian side, 17 Israelis, an American and an Eritrean.

- 'Return the bodies' -

More than half of the Palestinians fatalities have been alleged attackers.

Israel has withheld the bodies of many attackers, a policy authorities say acts as a deterrent but that critics argue leads to more anger.

On Friday, protesters in Silwad northeast of Ramallah called for Israel to return the bodies.

Bassam Hamad, whose son Anas was killed this month after he tried to ram Israeli soldiers with his car, led a protest.

"If (Israel) wants to make us suffer by stealing and keeping the bodies of the martyrs, we will make it suffer by being patient and resilient," he told AFP.

After Friday's protest, clashes broke out between Palestinian stone throwers and soldiers, with six Palestinians wounded, an AFP correspondent said.

Separately, in central Ramallah, Israeli security forces raided a shop early Friday, leading to clashes between residents and soldiers, witnesses said.

Three Palestinians were shot, one resident said, but their condition was not known.

The army said that, during "routine activity in Ramallah", troops were attacked and responded with "riot dispersal means".

Such raids in the West Bank city, home to the Palestinian Authority, are relatively rare.

In Gaza, Hamas mobilised thousands of demonstrators in several locations to mark the 28th birthday of the Islamist organisation.

One of its leaders, Mushir al-Masri, called for "resistance until the complete liberation of Palestine".