Thursday, July 3, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Undercover Men Surprise Rioters -- Masked Israeli Troops Mingled With Palestinians Before Pouncing; Meanwhile, Woman Is Charged With Writing Fliers That Started Riot


HEBRON, West Bank - Israeli undercover troops mingled with Palestinian stone-throwers today, then jumped seven rioters - including one who had just burned an Israeli flag - and dragged them away at gunpoint.

One undercover soldier, his face covered by a black hood, held a youth who had burned the flag in a choke hold, then waved his gun at the other rioters to keep them at bay.

A 17-year-old Palestinian who escaped arrest said the Israeli agents had joined the group of rioters and even hurled some stones to appear authentic.

"All of a sudden, they started chasing guys," said the young man, who would not give his name.

Like many of the Palestinian rioters, the agents wore long T-shirts, which concealed pistols tucked into their back pockets. They also wore hoods and masks, which Palestinians use to avoid being identified on army videotapes of the clashes.

The arrests came just minutes after the stone-throwing began, and stunned Palestinian rioters quickly dispersed.

The latest round of violence in Hebron was triggered by an anti-Muslim flier posted on Arab shops in the city over the weekend. The poster showed a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed as a pig.

A Jewish militant held on suspicion she distributed the posters was charged in the Jerusalem District Court today with hurting others' religious feelings, Israel army radio said.

The suspect, Tatiana Susskind, was unrepentant today, waving her fist and smiling. "This is freedom of speech," Susskind shouted as she entered the courtroom, escorted by dozens of police.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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