Dozens Hurt in Settler, Palestinian Stone Fight

Israeli settlers and Palestinians hurled stones at each other near a disputed building in this West Bank city on Tuesday, injuring two dozen people on both sides, including an Israeli teen with a serious head injury, medics and Israeli officials said.

Seventeen Israelis and Palestinians were arrested, police said.

Also Tuesday, an Israeli airstrike killed two Palestinians in southern Gaza, dealing a new blow to efforts to restore a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers. The army said it attacked a group of militants who had fired mortar shells at Israeli troops. Palestinian medical officials said the dead were civilians.

The Hebron fighting marked the worst outbreak of violence yet over the disputed four-story building where Israeli settlers have been holed up in defiance of an eviction order by the Supreme Court. On Monday, hundreds of right-wing activists rushed to the building following rumors that eviction was imminent.

The security forces did not make a move, but hundreds of settlers threw stones at Palestinian cars and homes near the house, defaced a Muslim cemetery and damaged Palestinian property in several other areas of the West Bank. On Tuesday, the fighting continued.

Hebron, holy to Jews and Muslims, is one of the most volatile flashpoints in the West Bank. Some 500 hard-line Jewish settlers live in guarded enclaves amid some 170,000 Palestinians in the city, and the sides frequently clash.

In Tuesday's unrest, settlers threw stones at Palestinians in the neighborhood. Palestinian residents assembled on rooftops and hurled stones at settlers, with vastly outnumbered security forces occasionally firing stun grenades.

In one incident, Palestinians dropped a large rock on a 16-year-old Israeli who suffered serious head injuries, according to the Magen David Adom rescue service. In all, 18 Israelis were hurt, the Israeli medics said. Their Palestinian counterparts reported that seven Palestinians were hurt by stones.

The ownership of the house is under dispute in a Jerusalem court. But the settlers moved in without government authorization and the Supreme Court has ordered them to leave immediately.

The Hebron house has become a symbol for settler resistance.

In recent months, some West Bank settlers have pioneered a tactic they term the "price tag," in which they attack Palestinians and security forces in response to any attempt to evacuate unauthorized settlements

Apparently in keeping with that tactic, several dozen settlers burned animal feed in the West Bank village of Kablan at around 3 a.m. Tuesday and slashed the tires of dozens of cars, according to resident Abdallah Snobar.

In a neighboring village, Assawiyah, settlers who arrived at around the same time slashed tires and spraypainted the "Death to the Arabs" and anti-Islam graffiti on the local mosque, according to village official Mohammed Mahamdeh.

In Gaza, about 2,000 people marched in support of the Palestinians in Hebron. "We are one family, in Gaza and Hebron," the marchers chanted, waving the green flags of the ruling Hamas group.

In other developments, Israeli troops killed a member of a Palestinian militant group, the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, late Monday in the Balata refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus.

Undercover forces shot and killed Mohammed Abu Daragh as he got into a car driven by a member of the Palestinian security forces, according to the driver, Naim Abdel Salam.

"He tried to get in beside me. Before he could close, the door Israeli forces grabbed the door and fired three or four shots at him," Abdel Salam said. A black Suzuki jeep pulled up two minutes later and the soldiers took Abu Daragh away, he said.

Palestinian officials said Abu Daragh had been granted amnesty by Israel as part of a deal with moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. They said he should not have been targeted.

The military did not comment on whether Abu Daragh had been part of the amnesty agreement, but said he was involved in violent activity in recent months. The military said soldiers tried to arrest Abu Daragh, but fired at his legs when he tried to flee, and that he later died of his wounds.

The military said that in recent years, Abu Daragh was involved in organizing attacks, smuggling explosives and recruiting militants.