MSCI, a US investment firm, has removed Caterpillar from three of its popular indexes that track socially responsible investments, citing concerns about the Israeli military's use of the company's bulldozers in the Palestinian territories.

MSCI said in a statement that Israeli practices were one of the "key factors" in its decision to remove the US manufacturer of machinery and engines.

It also cited employee safety concerns, environmental issues and a plant closing in Canada.

The decision has already spurred TIAA-CREF, a US mutual fund giant, to remove $72m in Caterpillar shares from its "Social Choice" Fund. The fund tracks one of MSCI's indexes.

Pro-Palestinian groups that advocate boycotts of companies that profit from Israel's occupation of the West Bank hailed the decision on Wednesday.

An Israeli official accused the Palestinians of trying to score "propaganda points".

Source: Associated Press