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World News

March 14, 2010

Israeli troops, Palestinians clash near Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (AP) — Several dozen Palestinian women scuffled with Israeli troops on the outskirts of Jerusalem on Saturday amid rising religious and political tensions in the disputed city.

The confrontation erupted at the Qalandiya crossing between the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The women chanted "Jerusalem is Arab, our eternal capital," briefly planted a Palestinian flag on one of the crossing's metal gates and tried to push through it. Israeli troops scuffled with the women and dispersed them with tear gas. At one point, a firebomb hit a military jeep and soldiers rushed to extinguish the fire.

As the women withdrew, Palestinian teens threw stones at soldiers who closed the crossing to traffic.

The Israeli military said four protesters were detained but no one was hurt.

Saturday's protest came at a time of growing friction in Jerusalem.

The Palestinians want to establish a capital in the eastern sector of the city, captured and annexed by Israel in the 1967 Mideast War. Israel's hard-line leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, refuses to consider partition, insisting he will never relinquish control over any part of Jerusalem.

Earlier this week, Israel announced plans to build 1,600 more homes for Jews in east Jerusalem, setting off a bitter diplomatic row with the United States, Israel's closest ally.

Jerusalem also has seen several protests in recent weeks against Israel's decision to include two West Bank shrines on a list of national heritage sites. The move's practical implications are not clear, but the Palestinians see it as a provocation.

Five Palestinians were injured later Saturday in clashes with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, Palestinian medics said. Residents of a village near Nablus said they tried to prevent settlers from bathing in a water cistern they depend on for agriculture.

Palestinian villagers then hurled rocks at soldiers who tried to maintain order between the sides. The soldiers responded with tear gas and rubber coated steel bullets, injuring the Palestinian, the medics said.

On Friday, Israel sealed the West Bank for at least two days, in an attempt to prevent more protests.

Even when a closure is not in effect, most West Bank Palestinians are barred by Israel from entering Jerusalem. The Qalandiya crossing is one of the main gateways for Palestinians who obtain special entry permits to the city.

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