JERUSALEM (May. 31)
Jewish settlers and Palestinians clashed in Hebron throughout the weekend as tension remained high following the brutal murder of an Israeli soldier outside the West Bank city’s Tomb of the Patriarchs.
Erez Shmuel, who was combining his military service with study at a yeshiva in the adjacent Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, was walking alone on his way to Friday evening prayers at the tomb when he was ambushed by an Arab attacker.
Shmuel was stabbed 20 times all over his body in an alley leading to the tomb and died shortly thereafter. His assailant fled the scene.
The killing, coming after a relatively long period of quiet in Hebron, set off a chain of violent clashes, with angry Jewish settlers attacking Arabs and damaging Arab property.
The army clamped a curfew over the entire town, forcing some 200,000 residents to spend the first day of the Moslem Id al-Adha feast behind closed doors.
As settlers returned from Shmuel’s funeral, they reportedly came under a stone-throwing attack and responded with gunshots, first in the air and then toward houses inhabited by Arabs.
Two women in their 50s and a 4-year-old boy were reportedly injured by glass splinters.
Although settlers said they acted in self-defense, on Monday the army filed an official complaint with the police, charging three Jewish settlers from Hebron and Kiryat Arba with stone throwing at Arab houses.
One of them was accused of using his rifle and was being kept in custody, while the other two were released on bail.
Settlers also clashed Sunday night with soldiers who prevented them from entering the Tomb of the Patriarchs during unauthorized hours.
The army was particularly concerned that a large Jewish presence at the tomb, which also serves Moslem worshippers, would cause further violence, particularly on the Moslem holiday.