Israeli soldiers, firing M16 rifles and dozens of tear gas canisters, clashed with students from Bir Zeit University on the West Bank today in a disturbance that followed yesterday's assault on the Islamic College in Hebron that left three Arab students dead and 33 injured.
Army officials said that at least four students were injured, two of them shot in the leg, and that one soldier was slightly injured in the clash here. Palestinians listed eight injured students and said five had been wounded by gunfire.
There were no arrests reported today in the Hebron shooting, one of the bloodiest incidents of violence in the West Bank in recent years, and it was still not known who was responsible.
The disturbance here began late this morning and involved about 200 students who left the campus and reportedly began throwing stones at vehicles along the main road through Bir Zeit.
Troops moved in and with tear gas and rifle fire forced the demonstrating students back onto the university grounds, which was surrounded by soldiers the rest of the day.
This afternoon, streets to the university were littered with stones and spent tear gas canisters. Rifle shots could be heard and a few students on the roof of a mosque on the campus hurled stones that fell harmlessly in an olive grove.
After talks between Army and college officials, the demonstration ended peacefully early tonight. Military officials said about 50 people were arrested and more arrests are expected.
Elsewhere in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, there were reports of scattered stone-throwing but no other serious disturbances. A curfew in Hebron and the neighboring town of Halhoul was lifted for a few hours this afternoon to allow residents to shop for food, but the central market in Nablus remained under curfew throughout the day.
Arab leaders called for a two-day general strike in the West Bank to protest the Hebron shootings but it was only partly successful.
In the Hebron attack yesterday, two masked gunmen, armed with Kalashnikov automatic rifles and wearing red-and-black Arab-style headdress, invaded the college grounds and for two or three minutes fired indiscriminately and tossed a hand grenade into a classroom building.
A few hours later during a disturbance in Nablus yesterday an Arab girl was killed and another was wounded by gunfire, apparently from Israeli soldiers trying to quell the disturbance.
The brutal assault on the Islamic College has brought near universal condemnation from senior Israeli civilian and military officials who have pledged a thorough investigation to apprehend the gunmen. Today the local council of Qiryat Arba, a militant Jewish settlement adjacent to Hebron whose residents have clashed frequently with their Arab neighbors, joined in denouncing the attack and calling for a speedy investigation.
There were some muted suggestions last night and today that the Hebron attack may have been the work of Arabs seeking to provoke more trouble on the West Bank. But even among Israelis, suspicion continued to center on the possibility the attack was carried out by Jewish extremists seeking revenge for the stabbing death by Arabs in Hebron two weeks ago of Aharon Gross, an American-born Jewish seminary student.
This Israeli attitude was summed up in an editorial today in the independent newspaper Haaretz. "One must be blind in order not to see that the crime was planned and carried out as an act of retaliation for the murder of Aharon Gross," it said.
A different reaction came in a statement issued by the right-wing Kach movement headed by Brooklyn-born Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the extremist Jewish Defense League. It said Kach had no role in the Hebron assault but "does not and will not condemn Jews who take up arms to take revenge for the spilling of Jewish blood."
The Hebron shooting also brought renewed criticism in some quarters of the government's settlement policies in the occupied West Bank and reminders of Israeli authorities' relatively poor record in making arrests in connection with assaults on Arab residents of the territory.