HEBRON, Israeli-Occupied West Bank — Armed Jewish settlers rampaged through Hebron for a third day on Saturday, driving Palestinians from the central market, firing into homes and shops and shooting at passing motorists.
"This is a Jewish city--get out, you Arab bastards, get out!" a burly, bearded young man from the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba shouted in English as he emptied the magazine of his Uzi submachine gun over the heads of dozens of Palestinians. "Get out, or we'll kill you!"
A 54-year-old Palestinian grocer was shot in the head and fatally wounded when the taxi in which he was riding was stopped at a roadblock set up by settlers on the edge of Hebron, according to Israeli military sources. Two Palestinians were hit by gunfire as they sat on their veranda in town, and a man and a woman, pulled from their car at another roadblock, were beaten.
The settlers said Palestinian townspeople had started the fighting by throwing stones at Jews on their way to pray at the Cave of the Patriarchs; they had opened fire, the settlers said, only to clear a safe path for themselves.
"We should not have to fight our way to prayers on the Sabbath," a settler said, arranging his rifle strap over his prayer shawl and identifying himself only as Baruch. "But if we have to fight, we will."
In escalating their protests in Hebron, a city sacred to both Jews and Muslims, the settlers apparently intend to demonstrate their determination to oppose Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.
Under Israel's agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organization, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank town of Jericho will move to self-rule early next year. Most of the 125,000 Jewish settlers in Gaza and the West Bank oppose the accord and are campaigning against its implementation, set to begin Dec. 13.
Outraged by the settlers' attacks and the failure of troops and police to control them, ministers from the leftist Meretz Party demanded that the Cabinet, at its meeting today, issue new orders to Israel's security forces in the West Bank to get tough with the settlers.
Although Israel's border police, normally used to control Palestinian protests, moved in to restore order in Hebron on Saturday, troops continued to stand back, taking virtually no action.
The riots began in Hebron on Thursday, a day after Palestinian gunmen killed two Israelis. The radical Islamic Resistance Movement, which opposes the accord, claimed responsibility.