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Machine Gun Returned to Settler, but His Hunger Strike Continues

Under pressure from Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, police agreed here Tuesday to return a weapon confiscated earlier from a Jewish settler in Hebron.

The settler, Michael Cohen, had his Uzi submachine gun confiscated by police after he fired warning shots into the air as Arab demonstrators threw stones at him near the village of E1-Arub, on the Jerusalem-Hebron highway.

In protest, Cohen staged a hunger strike outside the Jerusalem residence of the premier. His protest was backed by the entire Jewish community of settlers in the Hebron area.

Rallies were held there, blaming the government for taking harsher measures against the settlers rather than adopting a tough policy against those who attack them, namely the rioting Palestinians in the territories.

Shamir publicly said Tuesday that the security forces should not confiscate weapons possessed by settlers in the West Bank, who use them for self-defense. The premier’s aides then contacted the police command and exerted pressure for the return of the weapon to Cohen.

Despite the return of the Uzi, Cohen continued his hunger strike in front of Shamir’s residence. He was joined in his protest by Knesset member Eliezer Waldman of the ultranationalist party Tehiya, who is a resident of Kiryat Arba, a Jewish settlement adjacent to Hebron.

The two vowed to continue with the strike until clear regulations are issued regarding the opening of fire by settlers who are attacked.

Soldiers, meanwhile, have been instructed to use rubber bullets as a first recourse against Palestinian stone-throwers.

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that the army recently received a new supply of the rubber bullets, which are considered less harmful than live bullets.

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