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Palestinians Close Schools Following Clashes - 2001-10-09

The Palestinian Authority closed universities and schools in the Gaza Strip, a day after two people were killed and dozens injured during clashes between Palestinian police and anti-U.S. demonstrators. The authority convened a meeting of the main activist groups in Gaza and called for unity among Palestinian groups.

Gaza City's two universities were closed for a week and other schools shutdown for a day as the Palestinian Authority reacted to the worst internal fighting in years.

Palestinian security forces barred foreign journalists from the Gaza Strip and met with activists in an attempt to halt further street battles.

In a statement released after the meeting, the factions expressed "deep pain over the grave incident."

The events began when hundreds of students from the Islamic University in Gaza City marched to protest the U.S. strikes against military and terrorist targets in Afghanistan.

The demonstrators carried pictures of alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden and shouted anti-American slogans, despite a ban on such protests by the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian police moved in with tear gas and clubs to breakup the protest. Clashes erupted followed by exchanges of gunfire.

The Palestinian Authority says a commission of inquiry will be formed to investigate the violence, saying Monday's events harmed the Palestinians' image abroad and threatened national unity.

Senior Palestinian officials have distanced themselves from any connection between the bin Laden organization and the current uprising against Israeli occupation.

Osama bin Laden, suspected of being the mastermind behind attacks last month on New York and Washington, has said Americans will not feel secure until there is security in Palestine.

In the West Bank town of Nablus, a rally by the militant Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups was allowed to proceed after organizers promised the event would be peaceful.

Hundreds of university students marched and held banners reading "stop the war in Afghanistan."

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli tanks and a bulldozer destroyed Palestinian-owned farmland near an area where an Israeli truck driver was shot and seriously wounded. Israeli security sources say the operation was designed to uproot trees and bushes used by Palestinian gunmen as cover during the ambush.