Hundreds of Israeli settlers and Palestinians hurled stones at each other in running street battles in this explosive West Bank city on Tuesday, part of an escalating conflict over a building the settlers refuse to vacate.
Two dozen people on both sides were hurt, including an Israeli teen who was seriously wounded in the head by a large rock dropped from a rooftop. Seventeen Israelis and Palestinians were arrested, police said.
Israeli police and soldiers, vastly outnumbered, fired occasional stun grenades, but often stood by as rocks flew in all directions.
It was the worst outbreak of violence yet over the disputed four-story building where Israeli settlers have been holed up in defiance of an eviction order by the Supreme Court.
On Monday, hundreds more settlers rushed to the building following rumors that eviction was imminent.
The security forces did not make a move, but late on Monday, hundreds of settlers threw stones at Palestinian cars and homes near the house, defaced a Muslim cemetery and damaged Palestinian property in several other areas of the West Bank.
The fighting started up again on Tuesday, with settlers, some of them masked, throwing rocks at nearby Palestinian houses.
In one incident, a group of young settlers used a wooden pole to try to push open the door of a Palestinian house. Residents rushed to the roof and threw rocks at the group below. A 16-year-old Israeli was hit by a large rock in the head in this confrontation, witnesses said. The teen suffered serious injuries, according to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, where he was rushed for treatment.
In all, 18 Israelis were injured, Israeli medics said. Their Palestinian counterparts reported that seven Palestinians were hurt by stones.
Late on Tuesday the military declared the Palestinian section of Hebron off limits to Israelis.
Hebron, holy to Jews and Muslims, is one of the most volatile flashpoints in the West Bank. Some 500 hard-line Jewish settlers live in guarded enclaves amid some 170,000 Palestinians in the city, and the sides frequently clash.
The Hebron house has become a symbol for settler resistance.
The ownership of the house is under dispute in a Jerusalem court.
But the settlers moved in without government authorization and the Supreme Court has ordered them to leave immediately.
In Gaza, about 2,000 people marched in support of the Palestinians in Hebron.
“We are one family, in Gaza and Hebron,” the marchers chanted, waving the green flags of the ruling Hamas group.