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Palestinian-Israeli Death Toll Rises on Eve of Talks

November 09, 2000|From Reuters

GAZA CITY — Four Palestinian teenagers and an Israeli woman were killed Wednesday in a now-familiar pattern of bloodshed, providing a gloomy backdrop for the latest U.S. effort to bring peace.

President Clinton and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat are due to hold talks today at the White House. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak will see Clinton on Sunday.

Arafat was expected to push for a U.N.-mandated protection force to help end nearly six weeks of turmoil in which about 180 people, most of them Palestinians, have been killed.

Although Israel opposes the idea, the U.N. Security Council decided to hear a direct appeal from Arafat this week for a 2,000-strong force of U.N. military observers. The council agreed to an Israeli request for equal time in a closed session.

Three Palestinians, ages 14, 16 and 18, were shot dead by Israeli soldiers in clashes at the Karni crossing into Gaza and at Khan Yunis, hospital officials said. Another 14-year-old Palestinian was killed in a West Bank village.

Two Palestinians died of wounds from earlier clashes in Gaza. Another Palestinian youth died in Morocco about a week after being taken there for treatment.

Palestinian gunmen ambushed an Israeli car driving to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, killing a woman and seriously wounding a passenger, an Israeli army spokesman said.

At the Karni crossing, Israeli tanks fired two shells at a building used by Palestinian policemen who were shooting at soldiers, a witness said.

"This situation cannot continue and Israel will bring it to an end through diplomatic or other means," Barak said in a televised speech in Jerusalem.

"I hope the meetings in the next few days which President Clinton will hold with Chairman Arafat and myself will bring about an end to the violence and the full implementation of the Sharm el Sheik understandings," he said.

After the speech, Barak reiterated comments made to foreign leaders in a letter released earlier in the day that he is ready to accept the creation of a Palestinian state but only if it is born out of agreement and not violence.

"Negotiation can lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state with Israel's agreement that will be a stabilizing force in the area and serve the interests of the world," Barak told Israel's Channel One television.

"The establishment of a state in conflict that is hostile to Israel will be an unstabilizing force to moderate regimes in the area," he added.

The remarks were Barak's clearest commitment so far to conditionally accepting a Palestinian state but were also a new warning to Arafat not to make a unilateral declaration of statehood.

Palestinian officials said the Palestinian Central Council was not expected to declare a state during a two-day meeting starting in Gaza on Nov. 15.

"I don't believe and I don't see a reason for speeding up the declaration of the state," Palestinian Cabinet minister Nabil Amr said.

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