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Israeli Troops Reportedly Shoot at Crowd : Mideast: One killed, at least eight injured. Witnesses say the soldiers were disguised as Arabs.

<i> From Reuters</i>

Israeli soldiers disguised as Arabs fatally shot a Palestinian in the occupied West Bank on Saturday, witnesses said.

A Palestinian photographer for Reuters was among at least eight Arabs wounded in the violence.

Photographer Khaled Zaghari, shot in the left shoulder on his 23rd birthday, said undercover soldiers waded into a crowd of stone-throwers and opened fire with pistols at close range in the town of Ramallah, just north of Jerusalem.

It was unclear what touched off the anti-Israeli protest, a regular feature of the Palestinian uprising that began in late 1987.

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Zaghari said he was shot while trying to take cover in a shop.

“The man who was shot with me has died now. . . . His family has taken his body,” Zaghari said in a hospital in Ramallah, which discharged him after removing the bullet.

Hospital officials said eight other Palestinians were wounded in the town. The army put the figure at seven and said it could not confirm any deaths. It declined immediate comment on whether undercover soldiers carried out the shootings.

Clashes with Israeli occupation troops have been less frequent in the West Bank since the signing last September by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization of an accord on Palestinian self-rule.

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Much of the focus of Israeli-Palestinian tensions has shifted to the Gaza Strip, where Muslim guerrillas opposed to the peace deal have been mounting attacks against Israeli troops and civilians near Jewish settlements.

But Palestinian residents of occupied areas outside the autonomous enclaves of Gaza and Jericho say they are impatient to see Israeli troops leave.

In a first step leading to a pullout, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said after meeting PLO chairman Yasser Arafat in Gaza on Friday that Israel would begin implementing “early empowerment” in the West Bank next week.

He said the hand-over of power to the Palestinians would begin with their taking responsibility for education in the area Sept. 1.

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Violence was also reported Saturday in the West Bank town of Hebron, where a Jewish settler killed about 30 Palestinians at prayer in February, Palestinian sources said.

Israeli soldiers last killed a Palestinian on Wednesday, when an army patrol shot a suspected infiltrator on the border between Palestinian-ruled Gaza and Egypt. Under the peace deal, Israel is responsible for security along the frontier.

In south Lebanon, Israeli gunners shelled a village Saturday, killing one civilian and wounding two, local security sources said.

The village, Arab Salim, is on a ridge used by pro-Iranian Hezbollah guerrillas to launch attacks against Israeli forces occupying a strip to the south.

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