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Israeli soldiers, Palestinians clash in land dispute

April 25, 1997

KFAR KEDUMIM, West Bank (AP) _ Israeli troops fired rubber bullets and stun grenades today to disperse hundreds of Palestinians protesting what they called a land grab by Jewish settlers.

Three people, including a news photographer, were injured.

The clash erupted near the Palestinian village of Kfar Kedumim in the West Bank. About 200 villagers marched toward a nearby hilltop where they said Jewish settlers seized 15 acres earlier this month and planted trees.

Some threw stones at Israeli soldiers who fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to keep the crowd back. Such grenades can knock people over with sound waves but send no shrapnel.

In a separate land dispute in the Gaza Strip, Israelis and Palestinians confronted each other with bulldozers, and at one point Israeli troops fired in the air to break up a Palestinian protest.

The dispute began Thursday afternoon when Israeli bulldozers leveled a 1.5 acre-strip of Mediterranean beach for what Israel radio said was the construction of a military observation tower. Palestinians said the land belonged to Palestinian farmers, and was being seized for the expansion of Kfar Yam, a nearby Jewish settlement.

Two-thirds of the Gaza Strip is under Palestinian control. In the remaining third, including a Jewish settlement bloc, Israeli troops remain in charge of security. There apparently was confusion about jurisdiction over the strip of coast where the construction took place.

Palestinians are touchy about any construction that appears to expand Israeli settlements in Gaza and West Bank territories that they claim as a future homeland.

Peace negotiations between the two sides plunged into crisis when Israel began building a housing development in a disputed section of Jerusalem that the Palestinians want as their future capital.

Sometime after the Israeli bulldozers began working Thursday, Palestinian protesters drove two bulldozers to the scene to try to stop the Israelis, said Khaled Abu Ula, a Palestinian police colonel.

Abu Ula said Israeli troops arrested the two Palestinian bulldozer drivers, and shot in the air to disperse dozens of protesters who had accompanied them on foot.

Some 150 Palestinian protesters returned to the site today, staged a sit-in and set up five protest tents. Israel brought in a tank, but the Israeli bulldozers did not resume work.

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