Israel fires on foreigners
ISRAELI troops fired on a pro-Palestinian protest in the West Bank wounding an Australian woman, six other foreigners and a Palestinian cameraman.
Under mounting international pressure to roll back their military offensive launched early on Friday, nervous Israeli forces fired on some of the army of foreign pacifists roaming the West Bank in solidarity with the Palestinians.
The Israelis opened fire during a demonstration in the town of Beit Jala near Bethlehem, wounding seven foreigners, two seriously, and a Palestinian cameraman, witnesses and organisers of the protest said.
The group Solidarity International said a 26-year-old Australian woman was hit in the stomach with shrapnel and rushed into surgery. A Frenchman, 54, was shot in the head.
The other foreigners wounded were two Britons, two Americans and a Japanese, the group said. The one Palestinian wounded was a cameraman for Associated Press Television (APTV).
Jerome Lallemand, an activist for the group International Civic Campaign for the Protection of the Palestinian People who witnessed the incident, said about 60 people were demonstrating in support of the Palestinians in Beit Jala.
"An Israeli tank blocked their way and Israeli soldiers opened fire in their direction," Lallemand said.
An Israeli army spokesman said they were investigating the incident but showed little regreat.
"We know for sure that it was an act of provocation carried out on purpose by members of groups supporting terrorists, supporting suicide bombers, killing our women and children," said Lieutenant Colonel Olivier Rafowicz.
"These people decided on purpose to provoke our forces where we are combating terrorism. They are deliberately trying to provoke us," he said.
Lallemand said some 500 European pacifists were currently in the region "to demonstrate against the Israeli occupation".
He said they were spread out in various areas, mainly Ramallah, Bethlehem and Beit Jala.