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Palestinians, Settlers Clash; Arab Dies of Gunshot Wounds

A Palestinian died of a gunshot wound after clashes Sunday between Jewish settlers and Palestinians at a hillside near the West Bank settlement of Beit El.

The incident occurred when some 100 Palestinian residents of the nearby Arab village of Deir al-Kara went to the hill, where settlers set up a tent campsite last week as part of a their protest against extending Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank.

When the group of Palestinians arrived at the hill, they found a woman and several children, who soon fled the site.

The Palestinians then tore down a tent and set fire to an Israeli flag. They replaced it with a Palestinian flag, according to local news reports.

A short time later, a security officer from Beit El and several settlers came to the site and fired shots into the air to disperse the crowd.

Palestinian witnesses claimed that 22-year-old Khairy Mohammed Abdel-Hafeez was hit by the gunfire. He later died in a hospital in Ramallah.

But a representative of the settlers denied that the gunfire had killed the Palestinian.

“As far as I know, there might have been some shots in the air to disperse the crowd,” Moshe Meir of Beit El told Israel Radio. “The Palestinians all left running. Someone shot cannot run. It might have been some internal clash in the village, and they connected the two events.”

Israeli police arrested two residents of Beit El later in the day.

More than 150 settlers later scuffled with police outside a police station in Jerusalem where the two were thought to be held.

Meanwhile, settlers continued their protests at other sites throughout the West Bank.

Among their demands, the settlers are calling for a national referendum before Israel turns over any additional portions of the West Bank to the Palestinians.

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