Death Toll in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Falls in 2007 བོད་སྐད།

A new report from an Israeli human-rights group says the death toll in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict fell sharply in 2007. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from our Jerusalem bureau.

Last year Israeli security forces killed 373 Palestinians and Palestinians killed 13 Israelis - seven of whom were civilians. That is the lowest number of Israelis killed since the second Palestinian Intifada began in 2000, and slightly lower than the 17 Israeli civilians killed in 2006.

The figures come from the Israeli human-rights group B'Tselem. The group's communications director Sarit Michaeli says while 373 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces last year, that number is far below previous years, especially in 2006, when Israeli forces carried out large-scale military operations in the Gaza Strip.

"The reduction in the number of Palestinians killed by the Israeli security forces is the result of cessation of several practices by the Israeli Army - most notably artillery fire into the northern Gaza Strip and probably the invasion or military operations conducted in the northern Gaza Strip," said Michaeli.

At the same time Michaeli says while the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces has dropped, 131 of the 373 killed were civilians, and 53 of those killed were under the age of 18.

The report also says there was a sharp rise in the number of Palestinians killed in Palestinian factional fighting last year, saying 344 Palestinians were killed in fighting between the Hamas and Fatah political factions in the Gaza Strip.

A statement from the Israeli Defense Forces says its operations are carried out in response to imperative security considerations, and that it places great emphasis on minimizing the harm caused to non-combatants.

B'tselem notes that more Palestinians are being arrested, saying there was a 13 percent increase in the number of Palestinians being held without being charged or put on trial. The group also criticized the behavior of Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, saying restrictions in the form of 459 roadblocks and 66 manned checkpoints have severely restricted the movement of Palestinians.