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World - Middle East

S P E C I A L Struggle for Peace

Shootings of Hamas militants trigger West Bank clashes

At least 17 injured; Israel seals off Palestinian areas

September 12, 1998
Web posted at: 8:43 p.m. EDT (0043 GMT)

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- At least 16 Palestinians and an Israeli soldier were injured Saturday in street clashes triggered by Friday's slaying by Israeli forces of two top militants of the Islamic group Hamas.

The heaviest clashes were in El-Bireh, the home town of the two dead militants, brothers Imad and Adel Awadallah. Demonstrators, who marched to the village from nearby Ramallah, threw stones and bottles at Israeli soldiers, who responded by firing rubber bullets.

In Hebron, about 30 Palestinians threw stones at soldiers near the dividing line between the Israeli- and Palestinian-controlled areas of the city.

In Palestinian-controlled Gaza City, about 200 Hamas activists also took to the streets for a demonstration. They were met by Palestinian police, who staged an extraordinary display of force with about 3,000 officers. Police dispersed the protest and beat some demonstrators, but no serious injuries were reported.

In the wake of the deaths of the Awadallah brothers, Israel placed its military on high alert and sealed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip for the second day. In the past, Hamas militants have staged suicide bombings in response to Israeli military actions.

"We are under a constant threat of terrorism," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as he headed into talks with U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross.

Ross is visiting the region in an attempt to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. He also met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Nablus Saturday.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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