Clash Puts Curfew Back on West Bank City

From Associated Press

Palestinian militants ignited a gun battle with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Hebron on Monday, prompting Israel to reimpose a curfew on the divided city.

Seven Israelis and two Palestinians were wounded in a trio of shootings in the West Bank, and a truce reached June 13 remained unsteady.

Palestinian gunmen on a hillside fired at Jewish enclaves in Hebron, injuring an Israeli army officer, three border policemen and a 7-year-old boy, the army said. Jewish settlers in Hebron said the boy was standing on a balcony when he was hit. None of the injuries was serious.

Israeli soldiers returned fire, injuring a 10-year-old Palestinian boy in the leg, a hospital official said.

Israel's army again imposed a curfew on the 30,000 Palestinians living in the Israeli-controlled part of the city.

Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer ordered that Hebron also be sealed off, meaning that all 130,000 Palestinians living in the city will be unable to travel.

About 500 Jewish settlers live in tiny enclaves in the city.

Blockades Frequent During Fighting

Palestinian cities have faced blockades throughout much of the nine months of fighting, though most have been eased or lifted recently as part of the truce agreement.

In another shooting, Palestinians opened fire north of Hebron on an Israeli bus carrying Jewish settlers, injuring two passengers.

Israeli troops fired at armed Palestinians near Nablus, wounding and capturing one of the men, the military said.

Settlers have demanded that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon do more to protect the Israelis living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Noam Arnon, a spokesman for the settlers in Hebron, said the army's response to Monday's shooting in the city was ineffectual.

More than two dozen Israelis have been killed in ambushes and drive-by shootings on West Bank roads in the last nine months.

Armed Israeli settlers have begun conducting patrols and escorts along key roads connecting settlements in the West Bank with Jerusalem, settler spokesman Yeshoshua Mor-Yosef said.

Ben-Eliezer angered the settlers when he announced that he has ordered the removal of 15 isolated outposts established by the settlers in the West Bank in defiance of the government.

He told reporters that he was doing this for the settlers' own good because the army cannot protect the outposts, which are often no more than a cluster of small sheds or mobile homes. He said that he would try to persuade the settlers to leave but that if they refused, he would have them evicted by force.

The minister said he was not prepared to see settlers killed and then tell their families that they died "because they were guarding two mobile homes."

Suspects Held in October Lynching

In another development Monday, two Palestinians suspected of involvement in the mob lynching of two Israeli soldiers in October were arrested.

The two Israeli soldiers were beaten to death in a Palestinian police station in the West Bank town of Ramallah. Israel has said it would track down all those involved in the killings. It said that in recent months it has detained 15 Palestinian suspects.

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