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Israeli settler, soldiers kill 3 Palestinians

Latest developments:

April 8, 1997
Web posted at: 10:19 a.m. EDT (1419 GMT)

HEBRON, West Bank (CNN) -- A Jewish settler armed with a submachine gun shot dead a Palestinian in the divided West Bank town of Hebron on Tuesday. Rioting broke out and Israeli forces killed two more Palestinians.

Firing tear gas, rubber bullets and then live ammunition, soldiers injured more than 100 Palestinians. One rubber bullet struck the head of a teenager, who later died in surgery; another pierced the eye and brain of a man, who died after hours in a coma, hospital workers said.

The violence followed Monday's Washington summit between U.S. President Bill Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which made no apparent headway in easing tensions or resolving an impasse in Mideast peace.

Several high-ranking members of the Palestinian Authority are due in Washington later this week to discuss U.S. ideas for getting the damaged Israeli-Palestinian peace process back on track. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is not expected to be part of the group.

Israeli settler arrested

In Hebron, hundreds of Palestinians threw stones and firebombs after the shooting by the settler, ignoring pleas to disperse from Israeli troops who announced on loudspeakers that the settler -- a seminary student -- had been arrested.

Israeli soldiers fired warning shots in the air, then shot at protesters with rubber bullets and tear gas. When protesters bombarded the soldiers with firebombs, the soldiers opened fire with live ammunition, according to a reporter at the scene.

At least four Israeli soldiers and several Palestinian policemen were injured by stones.

The riot moved from a marketplace in the center of the city to the border between the Israeli and Palestinian-controlled zones, with Palestinian police trying to block protesters from crossing the line.

A 15-year-old boy died in surgery at Hebron's Al-Ahli Hospital from a rubber bullet to the head, according to Abdel Salaam Abu Khalil, a nurse at the hospital. The hospital was treating 24 other Palestinians.

Hebron's Aliya Hospital said 78 Palestinians were being treated there for injuries. Hadassah hospital spokesman Yossi Shoval said that the third Palestinian to die, a 24-year-old man, was also hit in the head with a rubber-coated bullet. The man had fallen into a coma after the bullet penetrated his right eye and entered his brain, hospital officials said.

Different versions of initial shooting

There were conflicting reports on the shooting that set off the rioting.

"Two Jewish seminary students were on their way to the Tomb of the Patriarchs when, according to their testimony, they were attacked by an Arab who sprayed tear gas on them," said Yossi Sitbon, commander of Israeli police in the West Bank.

Another report said the students may have been attacked with acid.

"Fearing for their lives," one of the students fired, and both were detained, Sitbon said.

Palestinians, however, said the killing was unprovoked. Palestinian witnesses said the settler approached an Arab shop owner in an area of Hebron still under Israeli control and shot him.

Jibril Rajoub, head of Palestinian security forces in the West Bank, blamed the settlers for stirring up violence.

Daily clashes have erupted in the West Bank since March 18, when Israel broke ground for a Jewish housing project in disputed East Jerusalem, a traditionally Arab section of the city.

Netanyahu blamed for violence

Arafat spokesman Marwan Kanafani blamed the violence on Netanyahu, who has rejected Palestinian demands to halt the construction.

Ahmed Qureia, speaker of the Palestinian legislative council, also blamed Netanyahu, saying, "The settlers are taking their inspiration from him."

Faisal Husseini, the senior Palestinian official in Jerusalem, went further, accusing Netanyahu of giving "a green light" to the settlers for such shootings. "It is not a reaction, but deliberate and planned," he said.

Netanyahu, speaking Monday night in Washington after meeting with Clinton, accused the Palestinians of "extortion" in demanding that Israel cease construction before resuming security cooperation to stop terrorist attacks.

"We're not going to pay a price for the privilege of not being killed," he declared.

Non-aligned nations seek U.N. action

The Non-Aligned Movement on Tuesday called for an emergency session of the U.N. General Assembly to demand that Israel stop the East Jerusalem construction and all other settlement activities.

The 113-member organization, meeting in New Delhi, India, said in a statement that U.N. member states should impose an economic boycott on Israeli companies or agencies operating in "occupied Palestinian territories" and whose activities violate U.N. resolutions.

Also Tuesday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa said his country was willing to mediate to break a deadlock in the Middle East peace process if Israel put on hold further Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory.

Correspondent Jerrold Kessel and Reuters contributed to this report.

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