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Gaza colleges closed in crackdown

Members of the public in Jerusalem read reports of U.S.-led attack on Afghanistan
Members of the public in Jerusalem read reports of U.S.-led attack on Afghanistan  

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority has closed universities and schools in Gaza in an attempt to halt pro-Osama bin Laden demonstrations.

Gaza City's two universities, the Islamic University and Al Azahar University, were closed Tuesday until the end of the week, while schools were shut for the day.

The city was quiet as roads around some security bases were closed to civilian traffic.

But a rally by Hamas and Islamic Jihad members was allowed to go ahead in the West Bank town of Nablus after organizers promised Palestinian authorities the event would be peaceful, said Ala Himdan, head of the Islamic movement in the town's Al Najah University. It had earlier been banned.

The general crackdown was imposed after violence broke out on Monday among Palestinian students supporting the militant Hamas group and bin Laden, who is accused by the United States of being behind the terror attacks of September 11.

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The rally was held a day after U.S.-led air strikes on Afghanistan, where bin Laden is believed to be hiding.

The Palestinian Authority had banned the demonstration

Two Palestinians died, and 210 were injured, with one of them in a grave condition, after dozens of demonstrators broke away from the main 1,000 crowd of students.

Street battles broke out with police in and around the Islamic University during which live rounds of ammunition were fired.

Doctors said 142 Palestinian security personnel and 72 civilians were injured.

The clashes deepened the rift between the Palestinian Authority and Islamic militants at a time when Arafat has been trying to persuade radicals to honor a shaky truce with Israel.

The Palestinian Authority convened the heads of the main activist groups Monday in an attempt to prevent further street battles.

In a joint statement released after the meeting, the factions expressed "deep pain over the grave incident."

Police said masked men fired at them from within the campus, but the statement condemned the use of live ammunition during Monday's clashes.

Hamas spokesman Ismail Abu Shanab denied shots were fired by the protesters and said only the police had weapons at the time. "We are looking to find out who is responsible and who are those people who fired against the unarmed students," he was quoted by The Associated Press as saying.

The Palestinian Authority said a commission of inquiry would be formed, adding the events harmed the Palestinians' image abroad and threatened national unity.

The Palestinian Authority has tried to distance itself from bin Laden, and has also tried to persuade Hamas to honor a September 26 truce with Israel.

• Palestine Red Crescent
• Israel Radio
• Israel Prime Minister's Office

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