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World - Middle East

Israel to lift Hebron curfew after skirmishes with Palestinians

Graphic January 11, 1999
Web posted at: 2:43 a.m. EST (0743 GMT)

JERUSALEM (CNN) - Israel's army said Monday it would lift a week-long curfew that has kept Palestinians confined to their homes in the Israeli-controlled section of Hebron following violence in the West Bank town.

The move will also end a closure on the Palestinian-run part of Hebron, which had prevented residents from leaving or entering the area. The town has been a frequent flashpoint of violence between Palestinians, Jewish settlers and the army.

Ending the closure permitted thousands of Palestinians to travel to their jobs in Israel.

The curfew and closure were clamped on the divided town after suspected Palestinian gunmen fired at an Israeli vehicle wounding two Jewish settlers.

On Sunday, Israeli troops hurled percussion grenades into a crowd of Palestinians in Hebron, moderately wounding four people, during a march against the curfew and closure.

Hundreds of Palestinians marched in the Palestinian-held side to the border to protest the curfew, which has prevented them from praying at a mosque in the traditional burial place of the biblical Abraham.

Two men and two women, members of a four-year-old self-styled American-Canadian Christian Peacemaker Team in the town, intervened at the protest, raising their hands, and briefly managing to prevent the troops from clashing with the marchers.

"It's a peaceful demonstration. Nobody is throwing stones," they shouted. Soldiers removed the four of them, arresting two.

Four Palestinians were moderately burned when the troops hurled percussion grenades at the protesters in a bid to break up the demonstration.

About 400 settlers live in the heart of Hebron, surrounded by more than 100,000 Palestinians. The city was divided into Palestinian and Israeli-controlled areas under an interim deal in January 1997.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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