sraeli Army troops opened fire on Arab rioters in the Gaza Strip today, killing a 7-year-old boy and wounding at least 17 other persons as furious protests against an Israeli soldier's shooting rampage in a Jerusalem mosque continued to sweep the occupied territories.
In a marked escalation of the violence, Palestinian youths tried to break into an Army base near a Gaza Strip refugee camp and were driven back in a fusillade of gunfire. Four Israeli soldiers were injured, one seriously, by rocks thrown in the melee.
In the center of Gaza town, six more Palestinians were shot when Israeli troops opened fire on a rock-throwing crowd.
Gaza Mayor Rashid Shawa said it was the worst day of Arab-Israeli clashes in the territory since the riots of 1971-72, when the Israeli Army bulldozed large sections of Palestinian refugee camps in an effort to curb a wave of attacks against Israeli troops.
On another sensitive front, the Army Command announced that Israeli security forces confronted two Palestinian guerrillas who attempted to infiltrate the West Bank from Jordan early this morning and drove them back across the Jordan River. The guerrillas threw a hand grenade at the Israeli Army patrol, but there were no injuries, the spokesman said.
The infiltration, the third announced since January, came against the background of Israeli threats to retaliate against any perceived violation of the U.S.-sponsored cease-fire agreement of last July. Israel has said it regards all infiltration attempts as violations of the agreement.
About 80 Israelis, Arabs and foreign visitors have been wounded in the angry clashes since Sunday's shooting spree at Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock Mosque. Two Arab guards were killed in the Sunday rampage in which an American-born Israeli immigrant is being held.
Speaking of Gaza, Shawa said in a telephone interview today, "It's a dead man's town. There are only soldiers and jeeps and armored vehicles here. The people don't care any more. They feel they have nothing to lose by attacking the soldiers. They've reached the point of despair."
Palestinian sources and the Israeli Army Command had widely different versions of what happened this morning at the Jabalia refugee camp, where the 7-year-old boy was shot to death.
The Palestinians said a crowd of several hundred protesters marched toward the Army base at the northern edge of the Gaza Strip, waving Palestinian flags and copies of the Koran, and that when they refused to disperse, the Israeli troops opened fire, hitting at least 30 youths.
An Army Command spokesman said a crowd of Arabs stormed the small security base, climbed the fence and threw stones at soldiers inside the perimeter.
"To prevent them from breaking in, the soldiers were forced to shoot," the spokesman said. He said the youth who was killed had been standing with the protesters.
A military spokesman added that the youth bled to death in the ambulance taking him to the hospital when the vehicle was blocked by chanting demonstrators.
The spokesman said the crowd dispersed, and that the Jabalia camp, along with another refugee camp at Neseirat, were placed under curfew.
Hundreds reportedly attended the boy's funeral tonight.
Shawa said a general strike paralyzed Gaza town, and that Israeli troops tried to break the strike by forcing open the steel shutters of some shops and welding shut others as punishment.
Employes of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which administers 250,000 refugees in the Gaza Strip, also declared a strike for Wednesday.
Four refugee camps in the occupied West Bank also were placed under curfew following rock-throwing incidents, and the town of Halhoul, near Hebron, was also sealed off.
East Jerusalem and virtually every town in the West Bank remained deserted as a result of the second day of the commercial strike called by the Supreme Moslem Council in protest of Sunday's shooting. A man identified as Alan Harry Goodman, an immigrant from Baltimore, has been arrested in connection with the rampage.
The Moslem Council, in a press conference today, charged that more than one gunman was involved in the rampage in the Old City's Temple Mount.
Former Jordanian defense minister Anwar Nusseibeh, speaking for Sheik Saad Adnin Ami, said officials of the council had found that gunfire had been directed at Arab worshipers from more than one direction during the shooting spree.
"It is obvious from the nature of the damage that it was not only one person who fired the shots on that occasion. It is obvious from the nature of the damage that the shots came from outside the area of Haram Sharif the Temple Mount --from the west, from the southwest and, most significantly, from the southeast, all of which would seem to indicate that there was or must have been some sort of coordination in perpetrating this tragic incident," Nusseibeh said.
The reference to the southeast was to the Old City's Jewish quarter, which filled with Israelis immediately after the mosque shooting. Some of the Israelis were carrying weapons. Some civilians carrying rifles were seen by reporters entering the Temple Mount during the disturbances that followed the shooting inside the Dome of the Rock.
In its press conference, the Moslem Council offered no concrete evidence of a coordinated attack on the Arab worshipers or the involvement of anyone other than a single gunman. Goodman was arrested inside the mosque with an M16 rifle.
However, according to members of the family of one of the two Arabs believed to have been slain in the initial burst of gunfire shortly after 9 a.m., Jihad Ibrahim Azzizi Bader, 21, was shot at 10:30 a.m., more than an hour after the shooting erupted.
Police officials, under orders by Interior Minister Yosef Burg to impose a news blackout on the investigation, refused to comment on the chronology of the shooting episodes on the Temple Mount.