Israeli troops killed two Palestinians and wounded 67 in the occupied lands Monday, hospital officials said, and a U.N. agency charged that the army was resorting too often to gunfire to quell the unrest.
"There is a clear trend of a growing use of live ammunition that cannot be justified," said a senior official of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees.
The Israeli army rejected the criticism.
The number of Palestinians wounded Monday was the second highest since the Dec. 9 start of the Arab uprising against Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. As many as 90 Palestinians were wounded during protests against the April 16 assassination of Palestine Liberation Organization military commander Khalil Wazir, which has been attributed to Israeli agents.
Monday's clashes came as Palestinians staged a general strike in the occupied lands to protest the detention of thousands of Palestinian activists by Israeli authorities.
The U.N. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, noted that Palestinian casualties in the Gaza Strip numbered 130 so far this month in contrast with the figure of 19 for July. He blamed the growing casualty toll on the army's introduction in August of plastic bullets, which penetrate the body like live ammunition but generally are not fatal unless fired from less than 60 feet.
An army spokesman, Col. Raanan Gissin, rejected the U.N. agency's complaint and attributed the increase in casualties to more violent Palestinian protests.
In clashes in the Jabal Mukaber district in Arab East Jerusalem, riot police fatally shot 19-year-old Jamal Mattar in the mouth, according to officials at the city's Mukassed Hospital. About 4,000 people attended Mattar's funeral, chanting PLO slogans and waving outlawed Palestinian flags.
In Gaza City, troops fatally shot 27-year-old Jihad Zanoun in the chest during a stone-throwing protest, hospital officials said.