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Violence erupts in territories as security cooperation resumes

JERUSALEM, July 2 (JTA) — Violence erupted in Hebron and the Gaza Strip this week as Palestinians vented their anger at
anti-Islamic leaflets distributed in the volatile West Bank town and the presence of Jewish settlers near self-rule areas. The renewed clashes came as Israel and the Palestinian Authority resumed security cooperation Tuesday, which was suspended by the Palestinians in March along with peace talks. “There has been a resumption of cooperation with the Palestinian police,” said Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai. He stressed, however, that Israel did not think Palestinian security forces were doing enough to calm tensions in the territories, especially in Hebron. A 16-year-old Palestinian protester in Gaza was shot and killed by Israeli troops during a clash near the Gush Katif settlement bloc. The incident occurred when Palestinian demonstrators ignored Israeli army orders to stop driving a tractor towards a settlement. Tensions have been high in the area over disagreement on land ownership. During Tuesday’s clashes in Hebron, rioters threw a gasoline bomb at an Israeli border police patrol, wounding two soldiers, one of them seriously. They were taken to a Jerusalem hospital. Palestinian sources said more than 20 demonstrators sustained injuries from rubber bullets fired by Israeli troops to disperse the protesters. The clashes in Hebron erupted when Palestinian youths broke away from a protest against leaflets that were posted in Hebron over the weekend depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammed as a pig stepping on the Koran. Israel sent reinforcements to Hebron on Wednesday in preparation for a possible escalation of violence. Earlier this week, police detained a 25-year-old Jerusalem resident, Tatyana Suskin, on suspicion of pasting the posters on storefronts in Hebron and planning to distribute more. Suskin was arrested while throwing stones at Palestinian cars and stores in Hebron. She had dozens of the posters in her possession. After spotting the posters in Hebron, dozens of Palestinians rioted over the weekend, ending a week of relative calm in the tense city. Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Ezer Weizman condemned the distribution of the leaflets. Netanyahu telephoned the West Bank city’s Palestinian mayor Sunday. “I felt it necessary to call the mayor of Hebron to express not only my personal revulsion but the revulsion of the entire people of Israel,” Netanyahu said Sunday in an address to the Jewish Agency for Israel Assembly in Jerusalem. “This runs counter to our outlook as Jews and our respect and appreciation for the Islamic religion and for its founder the prophet Mohammed.” Israel handed over 80 percent of Hebron to Palestinian rule earlier this year, but maintains control over the Jewish enclave, where some 450 settlers live. The Palestinian Authority broke off security cooperation in March, after Israel began construction of a new Jewish neighborhood in southeastern Jerusalem. The Palestinians had demanded that construction cease before resuming security coordination. Earlier, the Israel Defense Force removed a memorial stone erected by Jewish settlers in Gush Katif, in the Gaza Strip, for a soldier killed by Palestinian fire during Israeli-Palestinian clashes in September. The Palestinians had protested the location of the memorial, which they said was on land under self-rule civilian administration. An unveiling ceremony by Jewish settlers topped off long-simmering tensions between settlers living in the Gush Katif settlement of Morag and Palestinians, and led to violent demonstrations last month. The Palestinians took down protest tents they had set up opposite Morag earlier this week. The IDF moved the stone slab, in memory of Yehuda Levy, to an adjacent military base until a permanent site is found. Jewish settlers held a protest at the junction Tuesday night over the memorial being moved.

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