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Israeli troops today shot dead two Palestinians who tried to stab a soldier, the Israeli army said.

The deaths increased to four the number of Palestinians killed in violence in the West Bank over the weekend.

The army said that a soldier was on a routine patrol near a security crossing south-east of Nablus today, when the Palestinians approached and attempted to stab him. Soldiers opened fire and both of the Palestinians were killed.

A West Bank medical official said that a Palestinian youth died of a gunshot wound to the head from a demonstration yesterday near the West Bank village of Iraq Burin, also near Nablus.

Israelis said no live ammunitution was used. Reuters reported a second Palestinian died of his wounds today.

The violence placed further strain on US efforts to get peace talks under way.

Reuters reported that the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu was set to meet the US peace envoy George Mitchell later in the day.

His efforts to restart peace negotiations suspended since December 2008 were dealt a setback two weeks ago, after Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new homes for Jews in a settlement near East Jerusalem and Palestinians rescinded their agreement to begin indirect talks.

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