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Israel Reopens West Bank Schools, Thousands Return

Associated Press

Thousands of Palestinian children streamed to West Bank elementary schools today as the army lifted an order that had shut down classes for most of 10 months.

There were no reports of violence at the 612 private, state and U.N.-run schools attended by about 230,000 first-through-sixth-graders.

But elsewhere today, 15 Palestinians were wounded when troops opened fire on stone-throwing demonstrators in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, hospital officials said.

Among the wounded was a 10-year-old boy from Deir Balah refugee camp south of Gaza City, said the officials, who insisted on anonymity. They said the boy, identified as Hamad Hassan abu Dan, was in critical condition with a bullet wound in his chest and was transferred to Barzali Hospital in Israel for further treatment.

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The army confirmed that four Palestinians were wounded in clashes in the central market of Nablus and said it is checking the other reports.

At least 316 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds wounded since they launched their uprising against Israeli rule in the occupied territories last Dec. 8. Eleven Israelis also have died.

The start of elementary school classes was the first step in the army’s three-stage opening of 1,194 West Bank schools, closed for all but a few weeks since Feb. 3. Junior high schools will open Dec. 11 and high schools Dec. 18.

Brig. Gen. Shaike Erez, head of the West Bank military administration, said there is no guarantee the schools will remain open.

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“We have made the opening conditional on the schools’ being used for learning and not to create demonstrations,” Erez said on army radio. “We have no guarantees that everything will go smoothly.”

The army closed the schools in February after charging that they were a breeding ground for anti-Israeli demonstrations.

West Bank universities and colleges are to remain closed indefinitely.

The 365 schools attended by 175,000 students in the Gaza Strip have been open, although there have been sporadic closures.

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