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Israel: 3 teens killed in smuggling effort

Palestinian security sources: Youths were playing soccer

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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel Defense Forces said three Palestinian teenagers who were shot and killed by Israeli military were not playing soccer, but were actually involved in smuggling weapons from Egypt into Gaza.

Palestinian security sources had said the youths, two 15-year-olds and a 16-year-old, were playing soccer when they were killed Saturday.

According to an IDF statement, troops "spotted five Palestinians crawling towards an area prohibited for movement near the Israeli-Egyptian border, near Rafah."

The soldiers shot three of the Palestinians who ran toward the border, while the remaining two were questioned by Palestinian authorities, the IDF said.

Palestinian Authority provided them with information that the teens "intended to infiltrate Egypt in order to smuggle weaponry into Israel via the Israeli-Egyptian border fence," the IDF statement said.

The Rafah refugee camp has been a frequent flashpoint of Israeli-Palestinian violence. The Israeli army frequently operates in the area to halt weapons smuggling across the Egyptian border.

The IDF said it has protested the incident to the Palestinian Authority, accusing it of not fulfilling "its commitment to prevent Palestinians from approaching areas controlled by the IDF and not taking the necessary steps to prevent terror activity in the Gaza Strip and specifically at the Israeli-Egyptian border...."

Palestinian militants declared a temporary cease-fire March 17.

The violence occurred two days before Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's scheduled visit to President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Bush has said he plans to bring up his opposition to Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank during their talks. (Full story)

Under a plan that has divided Sharon's own Likud party, Israel will dismantle 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza and four in the West Bank this summer.

The plan is in accordance with the "road map" to Middle East peace sponsored by the so-called Mideast Quartet of the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union.

The road map sets out a path toward an end to Israeli-Palestinian violence, followed by a "final and comprehensive" settlement of the conflict and the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

The road map calls for Israel to freeze settlement construction and dismantle outposts built in the Palestinian territories after Sharon took office in March 2001.

It also calls for the Palestinian Authority to dismantle "terrorist capabilities and infrastructure," including confiscating illegal weapons and consolidating security authority.

Opinion polls show a large majority of Israelis support the Gaza withdrawal.

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