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Arafat agrees to help prevent militants' attacks

Clashes April 10, 1997
Web posted at: 2:33 p.m. EDT (1833 GMT)

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- As fresh clashes broke out Thursday in the West Bank town of Hebron, Palestinian and Israeli leaders took a small step again towards peace.

In a meeting with the head of Israel's Shin Bet security service, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat agreed to help Israel prevent suicide attacks by Islamic militants, a senior Shin Bet official said Thursday.

Palestinian security forces have already helped prevent one terrorist attack recently, the Shin Bet official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The meeting, held Tuesday in the presence of a senior CIA official, was apparently held at the United States' urging. It appeared to signal that the two sides are willing to resume some contact after Israel decided last month to move ahead with a construction project in mostly Arab East Jerusalem.

New clashes in West Bank

The construction of a new Jewish housing project in the East Jerusalem neighborhood -- called Har Homa in Hebrew and Jabal Abu Ghenaim in Arabic -- has prompted almost daily protests and unrest in the West Bank since work began last month.

On Thursday, new clashes broke out in the volatile West Bank town of Hebron, with Israeli soldiers firing rubber bullets and tear gas into a crowd of stone-throwing Palestinian protesters.

Map of area

One Israeli officer told Palestinian police through a loudspeaker: "We are not going to fire so you can do your job to control the stone throwers." Palestinian police, outnumbered 10-1, tried but failed to push back the crowd.

Later, the stone throwers pushed into the Israeli-controlled area, advancing towards the Jewish setter enclave of Beit Romano. It was the third straight day of rioting in Hebron since two Jewish seminary students opened fire on Palestinians Tuesday and killed one. They said an Arab had thrown a bottle of chemicals at them.

As the clashes continued, U.S. mediation efforts moved forward slowly. Arafat deputy Mahmoud Abbas and the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, were to meet with senior U.S. officials in Washington on Thursday to explain the Palestinian position.

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