The killing goes on despite attempts
to move forward with the "road map"

EU Commissioner Chris Patten said Israel has carried out this policy for a number of years.

Patten, who is in charge of the EU's external relations, said Israel needed to be careful "that extra-judicial killings don't make it much more difficult for the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority to get an agreement on a ceasefire with Hamas".

Patten was referring to Palestinian Premier Mahmoud Abbas, who has been meeting Palestinian political groups in an effort to end the armed resistance against Israel's occupation.

Israel defiantly defended its assassination of top Hamas leader Abd Allah Qawasmeh, who was considered the top Hamas official in the occupied West Bank, in Hebron on Sunday.

Israel's killing of Qawasmeh prompted US Secretary of State Colin Powell to express concern.

"I regret we had an incident that could be an impediment to progress," said Powell, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Jordan.

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat said on Monday Israel was deliberately trying to torpedo the US-backed "road map" aimed at ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Arafat was speaking after Israeli tank shells killed four Palestinian fighters in the occupied Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun late on Sunday. 

"This attack shows Israeli leaders are trying to destroy the peace process," said Arafat.

Palestinian medical sources said the four Palestinians were killed after an Israeli tank fired rounds at them while they were passing through a field in the town of Beit Hanoun.

Aljazeera reported the dead men were members of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of Arafat's Fatah movement.

The tank shells also wounded at least two others. Israeli military sources denied firing the rounds and claimed the four men were carrying explosives which detonated.

Arafat said talks between his administration and Palestinian resistance groups were ongoing.

Israeli violence continues

Israel regularly demolishes
Palestinian homes

Israeli tanks launched a raid into the Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis, demolishing at least one home. An Israeli soldier was injured in an exchange of fire, said Aljazeera's correspondent.

Meetings between Palestinian security officials and their Israeli counterparts to reach an end to the latest escalation in clashes were ongoing on Monday. Talks have focused on a US proposal for joint patrols in the Gaza Strip.

Earlier on Sunday, Israeli troops also shot dead a 27-year-old Palestinian woman near the Jewish settlement of Morag in central Gaza.

In other developments, the Israeli army killed a Palestinian man overnight near the Jewish settlement of Morag in the occupied Gaza Strip.

In a move likely to increase tensions, Jewish settlers torched Palestinian grain fields in the central and southern parts of the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian sources.

The Islamic Association of Palestine reported sources as saying settlers set fire to dry grain near Ramallah in full view of the Israeli army. 

The Israeli army revealed today it had charged a female soldier with forcing a Palestinian woman at a checkpoint to drink cleaning fluid.

The incident occured about four months ago in the Gaza Strip. Israeli soldiers manning checkpoints regularly subject Palestinian civilians to abuse.

Many patients have died waiting at checkpoints after their journeys to hospitals were blocked by occcupation forces.