Israel Troops Disarm Settlers as Hebron Violence Seethes

From Associated Press

In an unusual show of force, Israeli soldiers disarmed and detained several Jewish settlers after a confrontation Saturday at the Cave of the Patriarchs, where a settler killed about 30 Palestinian worshipers last month.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, meanwhile, said he would not move settlers out of the tense city of Hebron "at this stage" but hinted that he might later.

In several neighborhoods in Hebron, soldiers clashed with Palestinian stone-throwers Saturday after the army lifted a monthlong curfew imposed to quell protests after the Feb. 25 massacre.

Scores of youths pelted troops from behind barricades made of scrap metal and burning tires. Three Palestinians were wounded by army gunfire.

Soldiers also fired tear gas to disperse several hundred Palestinians gathered at the ruins of an apartment house leveled this week in an army raid in which four gunmen from the Muslim militant group Hamas were killed.

At least 21 people were hospitalized after inhaling tear gas, including 15 children.

Despite the lifting of the curfew, most of Hebron remained shuttered in mourning for the slain Hamas gunmen. Masked Hamas activists, carrying Palestinian flags, marched to a wake, chanting, "Oh, martyrs, your blood shall not be wasted."

In clashes elsewhere in the occupied lands, about 30 Palestinians were hurt Saturday. Israel Radio said an Israeli officer was shot and wounded while on patrol in Gaza.

At the Cave of the Patriarchs, which has been closed to Muslim and Jewish worshipers since the massacre, angry Hebron settlers confronted soldiers after being barred from praying at the site, the army said. The site is revered by both Muslims and Jews.

Police disarmed and detained five settlers, Israel Radio said. Troops wrote down names of other settlers involved in the scuffle.

The action against the settlers was unusual, particularly in light of past complaints by Palestinians that soldiers have ignored settler vigilantes.

The PLO has demanded that Israel move the more than 400 settlers out of Hebron to reduce friction. Rabin said Saturday they would stay put for now but hinted he might act against the six Jewish enclaves in Hebron later.

"I don't think that at this stage we are intending, or at least I don't intend to move out the Jews who live in Hebron. All the rest is not something that should be said or discussed publicly," he said.

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