Amid escalating violence, Israeli soldiers today shot dead two Palestinians who attacked them with pitchforks near the West Bank city of Nablus, bringing to four the number of Palestinians casualties under Israeli fire in the last 24 hours.
"Two men tried to stab a soldier during a routine patrol near the Awarta security crossing near Nablus. The force opened fire and confirmed their death," an army spokesperson said.
The soldiers from the Israel Defence Forces' (IDF) Nahshon Battalion were stationed south of the Israeli settlement of Itamar in order to protect Palestinians plowing their land.
Earlier today, a 19-year-old Palestinian died of wounds sustained one day earlier when IDF troops opened fire on demonstrators south of Nablus.
Oseyd Abd al-Nasser Kadus was hit in the midriff and was taken to the hospital in Nablus where he had been listed in critical condition.
Another youth, Ibrahim Abd al-Khader Kadus, 16, died yesterday after being hit in the heart by IDF troops.
The two were wounded when IDF soldiers tried to prevent clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians near the village of Iraq Burin, south of Nablus.
Army sources told daily Ha'aretz that the Palestinians' claims that live rounds were fired are false.
Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, which sent an investigator to the hospital in Nablus, said that both casualties were the result of live rounds.
In recent weeks demonstrations have taken place in the area by villagers, who have also pelted soldiers with stones.
Condemning the incident, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rdainah, said that Israel has responded to US and international efforts to revive peace talks "with more escalation" that thwarted attempts to get negotiations going.
The Middle East peace Quartet - the United States, the European Union, Russia, the United Nations -- on Friday called on Israel to halt all settlement activity, dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001 and stop house demolitions in annexed east Jerusalem.
It also called upon Israel and the Palestinians to resume talks on final status issues -- security, borders of a future Palestinian state, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.