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Israeli settlers, troops clash with Palestinians in Hebron

July 12, 1997

HEBRON, West Bank (AP) _ Palestinian rioters pelted Israeli soldiers with firebombs, stones and bottles today, shouting, ``Jewish settlers out!″ The clash broke out after a group of Jewish settlers threw rocks at Palestinians.

Israeli soldiers removed the settlers and were then attacked by Palestinians in downtown Hebron, the site of daily violence recently. The soldiers fired back with rubber bullets, injuring two Palestinians.

The troops also took over the rooftop of a Palestinian home for use as a vantage point from which to shoot at Palestinian protesters in the streets below.

``I live in a hell _ my home is on the line of fire,″ said the owner of the home, Nihad Abu Zaeneh. He said soldiers informed him his roof was now a base for Israeli troops. His four young children stayed inside, screaming as the sounds of gunfire from above echoed inside the stone house.

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

Soldiers pushed and shoved merchants who wouldn’t lock up immediately. One of those detained was a butcher who had asked to stay open until a bridegroom who had ordered meat for his wedding came to pick up his purchase.

After an argument with the soldiers, the butcher was led away, along with three other detainees.

``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.″

In all, about 50 of the roughly 300 shops in the downtown area still controlled by Israel were closed. About 80 percent of Hebron has been under Palestinian control since an Israeli troop pullback in January.

Today 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 all the different political factions joined in today’s protest.

``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 mid-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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