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Fatal clashes erupt in Hebron after Jewish students kill Arab

JERUSALEM, April 8 (JTA) — Another round of deadly Israeli- Palestinian violence erupted this week, as discussions centered in Washington offered little hope for a resumption soon of the two sides’ suspended negotiations. Two Palestinians were killed and more than 100 wounded in clashes Tuesday with Israeli troops in Hebron. The clashes were sparked by the death of another Arab in Hebron earlier in the day, when two Jewish seminary students opened fire. Palestinian police identified the dead man as Assam Arafeh. Hospital officials said he died of a bullet wound in the chest. In ensuing clashes, Palestinians threw rocks and bottles at Israel Defense Force troops, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Five Israeli border police and IDF troops were lightly wounded. President Clinton, who met a day before with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an apparently unsuccessful effort to resolve the crisis in Israeli-Palestinian relations, called the incident “troubling” and said that it should not “get in the way of moving the path toward peace forward.” In the wake of the clashes, the IDF clamped a curfew on the center of Hebron, where the attack took place, and sent border police and troop reinforcements into the city to restore order. Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat denounced the violence and forwarded a complaint to Washington via Palestinian officials, who were scheduled to meet with Clinton administration officials later in the week. Netanyahu returned to Israel on Tuesday after telling Clinton that building a Jewish neighborhood at Har Homa in southeastern Jerusalem would continue, as would expanding West Bank settlements. “Our policy is clear: The building on Har Homa will continue. The building in Jerusalem will continue. The building in settlements will continue,” he said Monday night after meeting with Clinton. Israel’s decision to start building at Har Homa three weeks ago has sparked violent protests by Palestinians on a near-daily basis. The Palestinian Authority has condemned the Har Homa project as an attempt by Israel to determine unilaterally the future of Jerusalem, an issue reserved for the final-status discussions. Netanyahu in turn has rejected the Palestinian demands for a halt to all construction activity as a precondition for resuming security cooperation with Israel as “extortion.” In the wake of the decision to build at Har Homa, Palestinian officials said they would suspend sharing intelligence information with Israeli security. There were conflicting reports about the circumstances surrounding the shooting by the two Jewish seminary students. Palestinians said the attack was unprovoked, and that the two opened fire as they walked toward the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Jewish settler leaders said the two students, who were detained by police, had opened fire in self-defense, after they were pelted with stones and tear gas. A police official said the two had suffered tear-gas burns on their faces. “I’m just surprised that something like this has only happened now,” said Noam Arnon, spokesman for the Jewish community in Hebron. “There are daily provocations by the Palestinians.” Under the Hebron agreement signed in January, the IDF redeployed from about 80 percent of the West Bank town, but remained in control over the town’s center, where about 450 Jews and 20,000 Palestinians live. Some 100,000 Palestinians live in the areas of Hebron that were transferred to self-rule.