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Palestinian youths shot dead in West Bank

Two Palestinian youths were killed by Israeli troops after throwing fire bombs at a guard.

Israeli men inspect the damage caused to a house by a rocket launched by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip. Picture: AFP.

RAMALLAH - Israeli troops have shot dead two Palestinian youths in the occupied West Bank, medical officials said on Thursday, as confrontations entered a third day following the death of a prisoner in an Israeli jail.

The Israeli army said troops fired on Palestinians who threw fire bombs after dark on Wednesday at a guard post near Tulkarm in the northern West Bank.

One body was swiftly recovered and a second was found in the early hours of Thursday.

Palestinian officials named the dead men as Amer Nassar, 17, and Naji Belbisi, 18.

The army said it was investigating the incident, which left at least one other Palestinian wounded.

Tensions have risen rapidly in the West Bank and Gaza Strip following the death of Maysara Abu Hamdeya, 64.

Hamdeya died from from cancer on Tuesday while serving a life sentence in an Israeli jail.

Palestinians accused Israel of withholding healthcare from the man and failing to release him after diagnosing that his illness was terminal.

Israel says it followed normal procedures.

3RD INTIFADA

Israeli defence official Amos Gilad dismissed suggestions that a third popular uprising, or Intifada, was breaking out in the West Bank territory Israel seized in the 1967 war and which is now home to more than 340,000 Jewish settlers.

"The term 3rd Intifada is meant to describe a general breakdown and uprising. There are no powers there pushing for a 3rd Intifada or general uprising," Gilad told Israel Radio.

GAZA ROCKETS

Israeli jets on Tuesday carried out their first air strike on the Gaza Strip since a truce ended several days of fighting in November.

The military said it was responding to rockets fired earlier that day by an al Qaeda-linked group, Majlis Shura al-Mujahadeen.

The group fired two more rockets on Wednesday and said it was responding to the death of Abu Hamdeya.

Another rocket hit an open area in southern Israel on Thursday, causing no casualties.

No Gaza military groups claimed responsibility for the latest launch.

Israeli officials pressed Gaza's ruling movement, Hamas, to rein in the rocket-firing militants after the most serious outbreak of cross-border hostilities since the ceasefire that ended the eight-day war in November.

Some 4,600 Palestinian prisoners declared a hunger strike for three days in protest at Abu Hamdeya's death.

In West Bank towns, some shops were shuttered in solidarity.