In the deadliest violence in the West Bank since Yasir Arafat died 10 days ago, three Palestinians were killed late on Sunday in a shootout between Israeli border guards and Palestinian resistance fighters.
 
Aljazeera's correspondent Walid al-Umari said a special Israeli force in civilian clothes and in a civilian car, followed by military vehicles, infiltrated Batunia, west of Ram Allah, at night and assassinated three Palestinians.

The correspondent identified the three as Muhammad Ghassan, Nasir Jwabra and Salam Yaqub, all from the the al-Aqsa Brigades.

A witness was quoted saying that one of the victims had his head smashed while the others were all lying in the dust with their identification papers missing.

"This is a horrible crime. They only talk about peace but their deeds are contrary to their statements," said Ram Allah governor Mustafa Isa.

"Israel's policy is to continue the assassinations and the razing of farmlands and confiscation of territories. This is what they have for the Palestinians irrespective of the current diplomatic efforts," he said.

Huge protests

Three Palestinians were killed in a
shootout with Israeli troops

The violence came on a day which saw massive Palestinian demonstrations against the Israeli separation barrier that runs through Palestinian land.

Twenty Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli troops.

Another nine Palestinians were wounded when Israeli troops opened fire in the southern West Bank at a group of 600 demonstrators protesting against the separation barrier Israel is building, medics and witnesses said.

Troops fired rubber bullets and tear gas after protesters threw stones at a construction site just outside Bait Ulla village, northwest of Hebron, witnesses said.

Palestinian shot dead

Palestinians say the route of the Israeli wall, which cuts deep into the West Bank, is little more than a land grab and an attempt to pre-empt the borders of a future Palestinian state.

Earlier, a Palestinian resistance fighter was shot dead by soldiers in the central Gaza near the Kissufim trade checkpoint, the Israeli military said.

More than 3550 Palestinians have
been killed in the latest intifada

Khalil Muhammad Shihata, 20, was killed after he and another fighter opened fire on a car of Jewish settlers, said the armed wings of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Islamic Jihad.

Shihata belonged to the PFLP's Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades and his comrade to Jihad's Al-Quds Brigade, the groups said in a joint statement.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian wounded on Saturday by Israeli fire near the Netzarim settlement in central Gaza, died of his injuries, said a Palestinian medical source, naming the victim as Riad Hasan Tammus, 53.

Two Palestinians, one of them a boy, were also wounded when Israeli soldiers opened fire in the Rafah border area in southern Gaza, medical sources said.

The latest deaths bring to 4585 the number of people killed since the beginning of the Palestinian intifada or uprising in September 2000, including 3550 Palestinians and 961 Israelis.