A day after a suicide bomber killed three women in a Tel Aviv cafe, Israeli troops used bullets and tear gas Saturday to quell riots by hundreds of Palestinians in the worst West Bank clash in months.
More than 100 Palestinians were injured from live bullets, rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades.
“We don’t want peace, we want Hamas,” shouted Palestinians, referring to the Islamic militant group that claimed responsibility for Friday’s blast.
Tensions between the two sides are at a new high and the peace process is paralyzed after Israel’s decision to build more Jewish housing in east Jerusalem apparently prompted the suicide attack.
The clashes were the worst Hebron has seen in a long time but mild compared to September’s deadly gunbattles elsewhere in the West Bank after Israel’s decision to open a tunnel entrance near an Islamic holy site in Jerusalem. That fighting killed 79 people.
Palestinians pelted soldiers and military vehicles with stones, and some threw firebombs at the soldiers. Israel radio reported that firebombs were hurled toward the homes of the 500 Jewish settlers who live in the city among 130,000 Arabs.
Seven Israeli soldiers and several Palestinian police were also injured in the clashes, which took place along the border between the part of Hebron that is Palestinian-controlled and the Israeli-controlled downtown. A Palestinian policeman was ordered to leave after he joined the stone throwers.
Israel imposed a curfew downtown, and the clashes quieted at nightfall.
The clashes broke out one day after Mussa Abu Deiyah Ghneimat, a Hamas supporter from a village near Hebron, set off an explosion at a Tel Aviv cafe that killed himself and three Israeli women.
In reaction, Israel barred thousands of Palestinians from entering Israel from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The army also placed a curfew on the bomber’s home village of Zurif. The village streets were deserted and windows closed with iron shutters as Israeli jeeps patrolled the potholed lanes.
Israeli troops had blocked reporters from reaching the bomber’s home, but friends and neighbors said he was a father of four who came from a deeply religious home.
The army sealed his house and witnesses said soldiers were preparing to blow it up. The Israeli army arrested 13 villagers, including some of Ghneimat’s family.
Ghneimat, 28, had been arrested repeatedly by Israel on suspicion of Hamas membership, according to Israeli media Saturday. In 1990, his two brothers also were charged with throwing stones and belonging to Hamas.
Friday’s blast at the Apropo Cafe in downtown Tel Aviv came after several days of warnings by Israeli intelligence officials that Islamic militants were plotting attacks in Israel.
Palestinians have been furious with Israel for breaking ground last week for a Jewish neighborhood in east Jerusalem, the sector the Palestinians claim as a future capital.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat denounced the bombing, which also wounded more than 40 people, but his aides were quick to blame Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying his policies had prepared the ground for violence.
Netanyahu, however, accused Arafat of giving militants tacit approval to attack Israel. Netanyahu cited as an example the recent release of Ibrahim Maqadmeh, a leader of the Hamas military wing, from a Palestinian jail.
Palestinian police arrested Maqadmeh late Friday at his home in a Gaza Strip refugee camp after he told a Hamas rally that suicide bombs, not negotiations, would stop Israeli settlement building in Jerusalem.