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Riots in Hebron amid eviction rumors

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Riots erupted as hundreds of Jewish activists gathered in Hebron amid rumors that a disputed house would be evacuated.

Hebron areas under Israeli control were declared a closed military zone, Israel Radio reported Tuesday afternoon.

On Tuesday, at least 17 Jewish youths were injured. A 15-year-old was in serious condition with a skull fracture.

The protesters threw rocks at Palestinian homes and at police vehicles on Monday night. Some 13 Palestinians were injured, according to Israel Radio, and 11 of the rioters were arrested. Police used tear gas and stun guns to disperse the rioters.

A few dozen protesters remained Tuesday on the roof of the "Peace House," a four-story building located between the Jewish community of Kiryat Arba and the Cave of the Patriarchs in which 20 Jewish families live. The protesters arrived in Hebron amid rumors that security forces would evacuate the house following a court ruling upholding the government’s request to evict the residents pending a court decision on ownership claims.

The Jewish residents claim they purchased the building from a local Palestinian through a middleman. The Palestinian denies the claim.

Nachman Holtzberg, the father of slain Chabad emissary Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, asked Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in a letter to hold off on the eviction until after the period of mourning for his son and daughter-in-law, which he said should be a moment of unity for the Jewish people. Holtzberg also is ideologically opposed to the evacuation.

Also Monday night, activists rioted and blocked roads in other areas of the West Bank, including spraying epithets in Hebrew reading "Death to Arabs" and "Muhammad Pig" in four Palestinian villages, as well as allegedly setting animal feed and tires on fire.

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