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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Muslim Authorities Curb Protests

GAZA STRIP/JAKARTA, Indonesia -- After fierce clashes in two regions thousands of kilometers apart, Palestinian and Indonesian authorities took firm steps Tuesday to clamp down on anti-American demonstrations.

Palestinian officials kept all schools and universities closed in the Gaza Strip, where two people were killed and more than 100 injured Monday in clashes between police and supporters of Osama bin Laden.

Indonesian police fired warning shots, tear gas and water cannon during a clash with 400 Muslim protesters outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta.

The battle in Gaza reflected a deep split between President Yasser Arafat, who wants to avoid antagonizing the United States as it launches a war on terrorism, and Islamic militants who hail bin Laden as a hero for defying the West.

The internal unrest was also disconcerting for ordinary Palestinians who have grown used to facing Israeli guns during their year-old uprising against occupation but have rarely seen Palestinian security forces open fire on their own people.

Monday marked one of the most violence challenges to Arafat's Palestinian Authority since it was created in 1994.

The leaders of the major Palestinian factions, including Arafat's Fatah organization and its chief rival, the militant Islamic group Hamas, met overnight and agreed to maintain the peace and seek Palestinian unity.

"These incidents should not be repeated and all steps should be taken to calm the situation," said Zakaria al-Agha, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee.

Witnesses said police killed two demonstrators, aged 13 and 21, at a rally called by Hamas, which opposes peace with Israel. But police said masked gunmen shot the protesters dead.

Angry demonstrators set fire to several police stations, and at least 10 people were arrested.

If police were responsible for the Gaza deaths, it would be the first time Palestinian security forces have killed Palestinians during the revolt. Since the uprising broke out, 626 Palestinians and 175 Israelis have been killed.

Arafat, who backed Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War but now wants to avoid swimming against the Western tide after the Sept. 11 suicide attacks in the United States, banned protests Monday.

He wanted to avoid a repetition of anti-U.S. celebrations that erupted in at least three Palestinian areas after last month's attacks on New York and Washington.

But Hamas militants and thousands of student supporters took to the streets in Gaza on Monday wielding pictures of bin Laden, prime suspect in the U.S. attacks and now hiding in Afghanistan.

Many were inspired by the broadcast of a bin Laden videotape in which he tried to make the Palestinian cause his own.

The Palestinian Authority, which has condemned the attacks on the United States, said bin Laden had no right to use the plight of Palestinians to justify violence. It remained silent, however, on whether it backed U.S. strikes on Afghanistan.

About a thousand Palestinians at a pro-Afghanistan rally in Nablus on Tuesday urged Arafat to free detained protesters.

Palestinian officials enforced a ban on foreign journalists entering the Gaza Strip, saying it was to protect them from retaliation in response to the U.S. strikes on Afghanistan.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said the protests would test Arafat's ability to control militants.

In Jakarta, witnesses said two policemen and a protester were hurt, mainly hit by rocks thrown during scuffles outside the U.S. Embassy. In two other Indonesian cities, Muslim demonstrators burned effigies of U.S. President George W. Bush.

"Long live Osama! America is the terrorist! God is Great!" the protesters chanted before the clash erupted.

The Jakarta protesters dispersed after police fired warning shots over their heads. By midafternoon, some returned to the embassy and were joined by other small groups, all of whom began to leave after darkness fell.

Few in the world's largest Muslim country back the views of radicals threatening violence against Americans although many oppose the strikes on Afghanistan.

Much attention has focused on a Thursday deadline given to President Megawati Sukarnoputri by the small but vocal Islamic Defenders Front to sever ties with Washington.

They have threatened to expel Americans and other foreigners and destroy foreign assets if she does not.

Some analysts doubt whether the threat will be carried out, especially since police have warned of harsh reprisals.

Megawati has not said anything publicly about the U.S.-led strikes, in keeping with her usual aversion to making statements about sensitive policy matters.

She needs Muslim support but also desperately needs Western investment and aid to keep Indonesia's economy afloat.