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The number of Palestinians killed by the Israel Defense Forces in 2007 decreased by 43 percent since last year, to 373, but the total number of Palestinians killed this year reached a record high because of the 344 Palestinians killed in the internecine conflict, the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem said in its year-end report.

The report also found a significant drop in the proportion of civilians killed, which decreased from 54 percent of the 657 Palestinians killed by IDF fire in 2006 to 35 percent of the 373 Palestinians killed between January 1 and December 29 of this year.

Fifty-three of the Palestinians were minors and the vast majority - 270 - were killed in the Gaza Strip.

In addition, seven Israeli civilians were killed by Palestinian fire in 2007 - the lowest number since the second intifada began.

Civilians killed

Three of the civilians were killed in a suicide bombing in Eilat, two by a Qassam rocket in Sderot and two in a shooting attack in the West Bank, while six Israeli security personnel were killed by Palestinian fire this year. In contrast, 17 Israeli civilians were killed in 2006, according to B'Tselem.

The organization also found that the settler population grew by 4.5 percent this year, far exceeding population growth but showing a lower rate of growth than last year, when the settler population increased by 5.8 percent.

There are 36 manned roadblocks in the West Bank that are along the Green Line, and another 66 that are not, B'Tselem found. It said the number of unmanned roadblocks, such as heaps of dirt or cement blocks blocking the entrance to villages, increased to 459 this year, compared to 445 in 2006 and 410 in 2005, but that the number of surprise IDF roadblocks decreased in the second half of 2007.