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Arafat ally urges armed struggle

As East Jerusalem youths battled soldiers on a main business street a few blocks away, a veteran political ally of Yasser Arafat said at a rally Saturday that the time had come for Palestinians to take up arms against Israel.

"Settlers and the occupation don't know anything except the language of bullets," said Salim Zreii, a leader of Arafat's Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Zreii is an important figure in the Gaza Strip, where he returned last October after spending 23 years in prison for having been caught off Israel aboard a boat filled with guns. His release was considered a gesture by Israel to help solidify the agreement for limited Palestinian self-rule it had signed with the PLO in September.

But Saturday, eight days after the killing of Muslim worshipers in Hebron by a Jewish settler, Zreii told several hundred applauding Fatah supporters that negotiations were no longer the right path. While he could not claim to speak for the PLO or for Arafat, the militancy of his remarks to Fatah supporters _ not Islamic militants who never wanted to negotiate with Israel in the first place _ was a sign of how much support the peace talks have lost among Palestinians.

"In Gaza, we demand to go back to the struggle that existed before the September agreement," Zreii said. "No occupation ever left until it was forced to leave. So the struggle must continue."

It certainly did Saturday, though with rocks and bottles and not arms. Dozens of youths in East Jerusalem turned the commercial thoroughfare into a battleground choked by tear gas and burning tires. Israeli border police fired rubber bullets at protesters, wounding 20. There also were clashes in Hebron and Bethlehem.

On Friday, the one-week anniversary of the killings and a day of Muslim prayer, Israel poured so many police and soldiers into Jerusalem that they smothered disturbances before they could even begin. But the armed force was thinner Saturday, and so there were more opportunities for the streets to erupt.

By the standards of the long anti-Israeli uprising, there was nothing particularly dramatic about the unrest. But it boldly underlined the fact that anger in the territories over the Hebron murders is intense, and so is resistance to peace talks with Israel.

"Right now," a foreign diplomat said, "there's a solid wall of opposition to going back to the negotiations based on present agreements."

In Tel Aviv, tens of thousands of Israelis, many waving black flags in mourning over the massacre, rallied and demanded that the government dismantle Jewish settlements in the occupied lands.

"The Israelis are sick of the settlers and their extremism," said Tzali Reshef, a leader of the Peace Now group that organized the rally.

Reshef said the immediate aim was to push for the ouster of the 400 Jewish settlers who live among 80,000 Palestinians in the heart of Hebron.

An Associated Press check, meanwhile, found that 30 Palestinians were shot to death by Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein in the Hebron mosque massacre, rather than 39 as reported earlier.