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Israelis, Palestinians exchange gunfire

September 25, 1996
Web posted at: 11:30 a.m. EDT (1530 GMT)

Israel grfk

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli soldiers and Palestinians engaged in gun battles Wednesday at an Israeli checkpoint, an Israeli general confirmed.

He could not confirm that the shooting on the Palestinian side came from Palestinian authority police, as some unconfirmed reports maintained.

The clash occurred after a large group of students marched along a highway toward an Israeli checkpoint to protest the completion Tuesday of an archaeological tunnel along Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque compound.

Palestinians consider the opening of the tunnel a desecration of one of Islam's most holy shrines. The tunnel runs along the Western Wall, one of Judaism's holiest sites.

Israel map

It was the most serious such clash since Israel began handing over parts of the West Bank and Gaza to Palestinian self-rule in May 1994 and another sign that the peace between Israelis and Palestinians may be fraying.

The wounded man was taken to Ramallah hospital. Earlier, Israeli troops wounded 160 Palestinians during clashes over Israel's policy on Jerusalem, the hospital said.

Major-General Uzi Dayan, Israel's central commander responsible for the West Bank, told Israel Radio: "There is an exchange of gunfire." He said it happened next to a crossing into the Ramallah self-rule enclave, north of Jerusalem.

Ambulances ferried wounded to hospital. About 100 youths stoned Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint, and the soldiers responded with live fire, witnesses said.

Witnesses told Reuters that members of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Force 17 security guard were firing back at the Israelis, but CNN could not confirm those reports.

"It's an exchange of gunfire," Dayan told the radio. "Fire was opened on our forces from a building in the area under the authority of the Palestinian police. We are checking now what's happening."

Dayan said he knew of no Israeli injuries.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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