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Palestinian security arrests Hamas leader

Israeli soldiers, Palestinian youths clash in West Bank

March 22, 1997
Web posted at: 8:50 a.m. EST (1350 GMT)

GAZA, West Bank (CNN) -- Palestinian security forces rearrested a leader of the Islamic group Hamas, hours after he told thousands of supporters at a rally that violence, not negotiations, would stop Israel's planned settlement in East Jerusalem.

Hamas claimed responsibility for Friday's blast in a downtown Tel Aviv coffee shop that killed three Israeli women and the suicide bomber. Over 40 people were injured in the blast.

The explosion at the Apropo Cafe, three days after Israel broke ground for a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem, followed days of warnings by intelligence sources that militants were planning attacks in Israeli.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Palestinian President Yasser Arafat for the blast, pointing to the freeing of Hamas militants who had been arrested after a spate of suicide bombings killed 59 people last year.

Map of area

Ibrahim Maqadmeh, a 47-year-old dentist, was one of those released earlier this month. But Palestinian police took him back into custody late Friday at his home in the Bureij refugee camp. Hamas sources said five other members of the group were arrested, but Palestinian officials did not confirm those arrests.

Arafat condemned the bombing and telephoned Netanyahu with his condolences, but the Palestinian's aides said that the Israeli prime minister's hard-line stance was responsible for the violence.

Soldiers use tear gas, rubber bullets

In the wake of the bombing, Israel closed the West Bank and Gaza Strip, keeping the Palestinians out of Israel. Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers continued for a second day in Hebron, where soldiers used tear gas and rubber bullets to control angry Palestinians hurling stones and firebombs.

Along the line between the Israeli and Palestinian sections, a tense standoff was in place Saturday morning as Palestinian forces stopped Palestinian youths from approaching the Israeli soldiers.

At least seven Palestinians have been hurt in the clashes.

In Zurif, the West Bank hometown of the man who bombed the Tel Aviv coffee shop, Israeli troops maintained a tight curfew, and reportedly arrested several Hamas activists in the town.

The home of assailant Mohammed Abdel Khader Abu Deiyah was sealed, according to Israeli radio, and witnesses said soldiers were preparing to blow it up. Zurif is an Israeli-controlled town.

Radio reports said that Deiyah had an Israeli work permit, and that he had been arrested several times on suspicion of being a member of Hamas.

Peace process in danger?

In talks held after Friday's bombing, Israeli security officials pressed Palestinian authorities to crack down on Hamas activists. The future of the Mideast peace process, they said, was at stake.

"The peace process is in jeopardy at this point," said Netanyahu's communications director David Bar-Illan before the Palestinians rearrested Maqadmeh. "If the Palestinians do not do what we are asking them to do by way of fighting terrorism, it is very doubtful that the process can continue.

Mohammad Dahlan, the Palestinian security chief in Gaza, said that his forces would do their part, "but Israel has to understand that for security measures to succeed there must be peace and the right environment has to prevail."

U.S. Mideast envoy Dennis Ross, who brokered the last round of agreements between the Israelis and Palestinians, said that the ongoing Mideast peace efforts had weathered suicide bombings in the past.

"This is a process that has experienced a lot and somehow it has endured," he said.

Hamas, Ross said, was ultimately responsible for the violence, not Arafat or Netanyahu.

Correspondent Jerrold Kessel and Reuters contributed to this report.

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