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Israelis, Palestinians clash near Bethlehem

March 20, 1997
Web posted at: 9:33 a.m. EST (1433 GMT)

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (CNN) -- Israeli troops fired tear gas Thursday at hundreds of stone-throwing Palestinians protesting Israel's building of a Jewish settlement in Arab East Jerusalem.

About 500 Palestinians, some of them students from Bethlehem University, began their protest with a peaceful march.

Later, however, the demonstration deteriorated. Stone- throwing protesters broke through Palestinian police barriers near the tomb of the biblical matriarch Rachel in Bethlehem, which is guarded by Israeli troops.

At that point, the Palestinian police presence evaporated.

More than 300 marchers were involved in the clashes, in which demonstrators threw stones at about 150 Israeli soldiers.

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  • There were no immediate reports of injuries. But witnesses said some 50 Palestinian stone-throwers were pelting Israeli soldiers with stones an hour after the unrest began.

    Israeli soldiers fired tear gas from behind barricades they had erected on the main street linking Bethlehem to Jerusalem.

    The scene was reminiscent of the Intifada, the 1987-1993 Palestinian uprising against Israel's military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in which stones and rocks were used against Israeli troops.

    Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had asked Palestinians to refrain from violence during protests against the housing settlement.

    Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers and Reuters contributed to this report.

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