Arab disturbances in the Israeli-occupied West Bank spilled into East Jerusalem today as rock-throwing youths rampaged through the main commercial center, smashing windows of shops whose owners refused to obey a call for a general strike.
Israeli army troops poured into the Arab section of the city and rounded up scores of demonstrators, although there was no repetition of shootings that left 10 West Bank students injured in two days earlier this week.
Today's disturbances began inside the walls of the Old City and moved into Salah Ed-Din street, the main shopping thoroughfare of East Jerusalem, where roaming bands of youths smashed shop windows and painted revolutionary slogans on walls. Stores that were not closed in accordance with an Arab general strike appeal were singled out for vandalism.
Plate glass windows were smashed at the National Palace Hotel, the most modern in East Jerusalem, as European and American tourists hurried inside when the demonstrators approached. Several shopkeepers said they were torn between the demands of the nationalistic demonstrators, who numbered about a hundred at the height of the demonstration, and orders from Israeli army troops to remain open.
Meanwhile, the army command denied reports that occupation troops in the West Bank were issued new orders to shoot at the legs of the demonstrators as a result of the May 2 ambush killing of six Israeli settlers in Hebron, as the army radio had broadcast.
"It is not part of a new policy. These orders are quite old, at least from two years ago," said Col. Amir Heshin, spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces. "When there is a risk to lives, the soldiers shoot first in the air, and then at the legs."
The army spokesman gave no explanation why troops did not use tear gas or water cannons, which have been used in many West Bank demonstrations to disperse crowds. Eyewitnesses to Tuesday's shootings at Bethlehem University said the soldiers who shot live ammunition at the unarmed students appeared to have no tear gas cannisters either in their combat gear or in the troop truck in which they arrived.
Tensions remained high in the West Bank, with strikes continuing at several Arab high schools. Army units tightened security in Ramallah and Bethlehem, where protesting students were wounded by gunfire Monday and Tuesday.