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Funeral sparks fierce clashes in West Bank

Soldier

Palestinian police come between protesters, Israeli troops

April 9, 1997
Web posted at: 10:05 a.m. EDT (1405 GMT)

Latest developments:

HEBRON, West Bank (CNN) -- Palestinian police moved in to restore order in Hebron Wednesday, where another day of stone-throwing and rubber bullets followed the funeral of a Palestinian killed by Israeli troops. movie icon(1.1M/28 sec. QuickTime movie)

Palestinians threw rocks and petrol bombs at Israeli troops, who responded with rubber bullets and tear gas before Palestinian police wearing red berets arrived on the scene and literally pushed back the protesters.

Hospital officials said more than 30 Palestinians were wounded in the latest of fierce daily clashes that began March 18 when Israel began construction on a controversial housing project in East Jerusalem.

Israeli army radio said three Israeli soldiers and two Palestinian policemen were injured.


Map: Areas of Control


'The olive branch is down'

Wednesday's protests began after the emotional funeral of Nader Isseid, one of two Palestinians killed by Israeli troops during Tuesday's protests, which broke out after two Israeli settlers shot to death another Palestinian.

Islamic militants marched behind Isseid's flag-shrouded body through the streets of Hebron, shouting for revenge and more suicide attacks against Israel.

"The olive branch is down and the Kalashnikov (rifle) is raised," marchers chanted.

Palestinian police fired 21 shots into the air as Isseid's body was lowered into the grave. The second Palestinian killed in Tuesday's riots, 16-year-old Yacoub Julani, was given a similar salute at his funeral Tuesday.

Palestinians want settlers disarmed

Tuesday's riots were sparked by the shooting death of Assam Rashid Arafeh by two Israeli settlers, but accounts of the incident differ. The Israeli settlers, identified as seminary students, say they fired in self-defense, while the Palestinians say Arafeh was shot without provocation.

The two were arrested after the incident, arraigned and released on bail. They were ordered to stay out of Hebron for the next 60 days.

Palestinian officials were outraged at the shooting, with some calling the Hebron settlers -- who number about 500 in a town of 130,000 Palestinians -- "terrorists."

"We consider the presence of the settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip illegal," said Ahmed Qureia, speaker of the Palestinian parliament and former chief negotiator with Israel. "Until the time that they will leave, they should be disarmed."

David Bar-Illan, a top aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called the suggestion "nothing short of outrageous."

"In the vast majority of cases, the settlers used arms only to defend themselves," he said.

Talks yield no progress

The rift between Israel and the Palestinians was no closer on Wednesday, after Netanyahu's trip to discuss the situation with U.S. President Bill Clinton in Washington.

Sources said Clinton asked Netanyahu to halt construction on the 6,500-unit housing project at the East Jerusalem site known as Har Homa in Hebrew and Jabal Abu Ghneim in Arabic, but the Israeli leader refused.

A Palestinian delegation planned to travel to Washington on Wednesday for talks with U.S. officials, but the Palestinians have been adamant in their insistence that Israel stop the construction project.

Correspondent Jerrold Kessel contributed to this report.

 
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