The incident occurred last year when a lieutenant ordered a tank crew to fire artillery shells to enforce a curfew in the West Bank town.

A total of 10 rounds were fired according to the indictment – resulting in the death of four Palestinians, including three children, a boy aged three, a girl aged six, and another 11-year-old boy.

Since the start of the Intifada three years ago, only nine soldiers have gone on trial for killing Palestinians.

Palestinian leaders have dismissed the indictment as a public relations ploy saying there are many cases of abuse by soldiers and settlers.

“The Israeli state know this fact quite well, but choose to do nothing because the victims are not Jews,” said Professor Hanna Issa, the Palestinian Authority’s legal advisor.

According to a study in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper yesterday, more than 80% of the estimated 2700 Palestinians killed and 15,000 injured were victims that had nothing to do with the armed resistance against Israel.

Israeli human rights groups blame trigger-happy soldiers and the lack of disciplinary action for the high toll.