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Israeli troops close Hebron shops, clash with Palestinians

July 12, 1997

HEBRON, West Bank (AP) _ Palestinian rioters lobbed dozens of firebombs, stones and bottles at Israeli troops Saturday, while trying to dodge the army’s rubber bullets and rocks thrown at them by Jewish settlers.

Nine Palestinians were injured by the rubber bullets.

The clashes broke out after a group of 25 Jewish settlers, who had come from morning Sabbath prayers, started throwing stones at Palestinian youths in the city’s downtown area, the site of recent daily violence. Israeli soldiers removed the settlers, and were then attacked by Palestinians.

Soldiers also took over the rooftop of a house owned by a Palestinian medic, using it as a base to shoot at rioters down below.

``I live in a hell, my home is on the line of fire,″ said Nihad Abu Zaeneh, a 33-year-old father of four. He said soldiers informed him his rooftop was now a base for Israeli troops. His children screamed as the sounds of gunfire from above echoed inside the stone house.

One hour earlier, troops closed Palestinian shops in downtown Hebron in retaliation for nearly two weeks of Palestinian riots and detained four shopkeepers who resisted army orders.

``This is collective punishment,″ said Noah Abu Munshar, who owns a hardware store and was not among those detained.``The army is pushing us further into clashes.″

About 50 shops in the downtown area still controlled by Israel were closed. Some 80 percent of Hebron has been under Palestinian control since an Israeli troop pullback in January.

Settlers later climbed the rooftop of Beit Hadassah settler compound and threw stones at Palestinians below. Israeli police arrived and coaxed the settlers back inside.

Saturday marked the second time this week that Israeli troops ordered Arab shops closed as punishment for Palestinian rioting.

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, Ahmed Qureai, the speaker of the Palestinian legislative council, watched and smiled while demonstrators burned Israeli flags during a protest march against Jewish settlements.

About 500 Palestinians from different political factions participated.

``The Palestinian people will never accept any kind of settlement expansion or confiscation ... this is what the people want to say to the Israeli government ... to all the world,″ Qureai said.

About 500 Jewish settlers and 130,000 Palestinians live in Hebron. It has been the scene of sporadic violence since March, when Israel began construction of a Jewish neighborhood in east Jerusalem, the sector the Palestinians claim as a future capital.

Tensions rose in Hebron two weeks ago when a Jewish woman pasted fliers on shop doors showing the Muslim prophet, Mohammed, as a pig. The posters have angered Muslims around the world, and the woman is awaiting trial in Israel for her actions.

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