West Bank heats up after grenade attacks in Hebron

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Palestinians and Israeli soldiers clashed for five days in the West Bank, following grenade attacks in Hebron on Yom Kippur.

As of mid-week, Israeli security hadn't found the attacker who hurled two grenades and wounded 14 soldiers on Wednesday of last week. Eleven Palestinians also were wounded when Israeli settlers threw a grenade in retaliation.

Following the initial attack, Israeli security forces decided that closure on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would remain in effect through Sukkot due to warnings of planned terrorist attacks.

Eyewitnesses said two grenades were hurled at the patrol jeep when the patrol was in the Hebron market near the Jewish enclaves.

The patrol shot the attacker in the leg. Soldiers pursued him into the Palestinian-controlled part of Hebron, but he managed to escape.

The Israel Defense Force submitted a harsh protest to the Palestinian Authority regarding the incident and the Palestinian police's failure to respond.

The West Bank clashes that followed the grenade attacks grew at times to hundreds of Palestinians.

On Thursday of last week, 200 Palestinian youths threw stones and firebombs at Israeli troops in Hebron. The soldiers fired tear gas and rubber bullets in response.

On the same day, a border police officer suffered injuries when Palestinians threw stones at a roadblock near Rachel's Tomb near Bethlehem. Israeli security forces trying to quell riots in the vicinity of Bethlehem, Hebron and Bidu fired rubber bullets at Palestinians, injuring 14 of them.

On Sunday, at one checkpoint near Hebron, about 100 Palestinian youths threw stones at the soldiers, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

In another development last week, the Palestinian Authority continued its investigation into a Hebron bomb factory that it discovered. A Palestinian source said authorities arrested Hisham Sharbati, a Hamas activist and former chemistry student who reportedly stashed nearly a ton of explosives in his home next to Palestinian police headquarters on the outskirts of Hebron.

Sharbati had reportedly been in touch with the Awadallah brothers, two Hamas leaders slain by Israeli forces last month.

On Friday of last week, the Palestinian Authority released four Israeli citizens arrested the previous day for their suspected involvement in the killing of Hamas member Zahran Ibrahim Zahran in a car explosion in Ramallah last week.

The four men, residents of Taibeh, were released into the custody of Taibeh Mayor Rafiq Haj Yihyeh, who had appealed to Arafat for their release.

Palestinian police also captured two Hamas terrorists last week who were heading toward Israel with explosives, Palestinian security sources said Saturday.

The two Hamas members were found near the wire fence at the Erez crossing with 77 pounds of explosives. One of the arrested men said they were attempting to cross into Israel and carry out a bombing. A third member of the Hamas squad escaped.

Meanwhile, Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin said Thursday of last week that the recent crackdown on Hamas activists by the Palestinian Authority has made it more difficult for them to act.

Yassin vowed, however, that Hamas would carry out attacks to avenge the slayings of Imad and Adel Awadallah and to liberate Palestinian land from Israel's control.