Five Palestinians were injured on Saturday when riots and fistfights took place between Jews and Palestinians in Hebron, an eruption that could reverberate on the peace summit in Camp David, according to The Associated Press.
Palestinians said the Jewish settlers, known to be the most adamant opponents of Prime Minister Ehud Barak's peacemaking efforts, started throwing stones at Palestinians in the afternoon, accusing them of disturbing their Sabbath rest, said the AP.
However, settlers said the riots started when a Palestinian sexually assaulted a Jewish teen-age girl. Palestinian officials strongly denied that, saying it was a pretext for violence by settlers hoping to scuttle any peace accord, the AP said.
Jewish settlers have attacked local Palestinians in the past for disturbing the Sabbath, but the rioting has rarely achieved such intensity.
Israeli army troops grappled both with the settlers and the Palestinians.
Settlers damaged about dozen Palestinian vehicles. The sides threw stones and bottles at each other, said the agency.
Muhammad Jamal said he was the first to come under attack. He said he was walking on the road separating Hebron from the neighboring settlement of Kiryat Arba, when a gang of youths beat and insulted him.
"I ran away, and then they started picking on everyone passing," he said.
In one incident, five to six Jewish settler men, dressed in their Sabbath best white shirts and blue slacks, surrounded a Palestinian man and started punching and kicking him, said the AP.
Among the injured were cameramen for Reuters television and TF1, a French network.
Another six, including a cameraman for ABC TV, were treated on the spot, said the agency.
Troops arrested five Palestinians and two settlers. One Palestinian was arrested after shouting "we will die for our land."
The army said that a soldier was lightly injured and treated on the spot.
Settlers advanced on Palestinian areas, prompting Israeli soldiers to shout: "Get out of here."
Order was eventually restored when the troops formed a human shield between the settlers and the Palestinians, said the agency - Albawaba.com
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