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June 1998
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JERUSALEM (AP - 6-8-98) - Jewish settlers took over two buildings in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem before dawn today, stringing barbed wire and setting off angry stone-throwing clashes with Arab neighbors.

It was the latest in a series of escalating confrontations in Jerusalem's eastern sector as both sides accuse the other of trying to grab land in the bitterly contested city.

At least two people were injured in today's clashes, including the top Palestinian official in Jerusalem, Faisal Husseini. He was hit in the head with a stone and slightly hurt before police and soldiers broke up the melee.

Adding to the volatile mix, about 20 activists from the Peace Now group arrived at the site in the Silwan neighborhood to protest the settlers' arrival. Police dragged them away after they refused to disperse.

The 15 settlers were from the Elad group, which claims it purchased the homes legally. Israel radio said, though, that the ownership is in contention.

"We decided tonight to fulfill our ownership of these buildings,'' said Yehuda Mali, one of the settlers who moved in overnight. He said his group bought the property almost 10 years ago.

In one skirmish, settlers kicked Arabs who tried to block them from entering one of the buildings.

"I will surrender my life before I surrender my house!'' shouted Fatima Karaeen, 62, who said she has papers showing one of the houses belongs to her Arab family.

"The cowards!''

The makeup of Jerusalem's neighborhoods is an explosive issue, with Palestinians trying to block what they say are illegal encroachments by Jewish settlers. Both sides are constantly jockeying for position, pending negotiations on the city's final status.

The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967, as capital of a future state. Israel insists the city must remain undivided under Israeli sovereignty.

Husseini, the Palestinian official, has called for mass street protests to block Jewish settlers, who have been stepping up activity in recent weeks. Last month, clashes broke out after the settler group Ataret Cohanim set up sheds near the Old City's Herod's Gate.




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