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New gunbattles erupt as Mideast summit hopes fade

A Palestinian man was shot dead during clashes with Israeli troops in Hebron

October 13, 2000, 03:37 PM OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (Agencies)

- A Palestinian man was shot dead during clashes with Israeli troops in the divided West Bank town of Hebron on Friday, hospital officials said.

Palestinians fought more gunbattles with Israeli troops on Friday as prospects faded for an early meeting of Israeli and Palestinian leaders to calm clashes that have torpedoed peacemaking.

European Union leaders appealed for an emergency Middle East summit to end the clashes and rescue the shattered peace process.

But Egypt, which offered on Thursday to host a summit if Israeli attacks against Palestinian stopped, said conditions for a meeting were still not ripe on the 16th day of fighting.

Israels acting foreign minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, said no decision had been taken on a summit and Israel did not want a "fiasco" like last weeks failed Paris talks between Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

Witnesses said Israeli tanks fired machineguns after Palestinians shot at troops in Ramallah, where a mob killed two Israeli undercover death squad agents on Thursday and Israeli helicopters rocketed Palestinian Authority offices in reprisal.

Gunbattles erupted in the divided city of Hebron, where five Palestinians were hurt, and in the West Bank village of Hizme.

There were also clashes in Jenin and Bethlehem, but the overall level of violence was lower than on the last two Fridays and no deaths were immediately reported.

Hamas movement had called on Muslims and Arabs to take part in "marches of rage" after the helicopter raids ordered by Barak.

Bomb Tel Aviv

"Barak`s tanks and missiles do not frighten us," Marwan Barghouti, a leader of Arafats Fatah faction, told a crowd in Ramallah. "The intifada and confrontations will continue." More than 3,000 people marched in Ramallah, where Palestinian police stations and Voice of Palestine Radio were rocketed on Thursday.

In Hebron, a flashpoint even before the latest clashes in which at least 95 Arabs killed by Israeli troops, protesters chanted pro-Hamas slogans. "Bomb Tel Aviv," the crowd shouted. In Gaza City, Hamas supporters rampaged through streets, attacking a hotel, nightclubs , shops, on the grounds that they contained alcohol, prohibited by Islam.

Diplomacy falters

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, overcoming earlier reluctance to host a summit, finally agreed on Thursday to bring together Arafat, Barak and Clinton for emergency talks.

But a day later, Egypts state news agency said: "Foreign Minister Amr Moussa announced that it does not appear that the necessary atmosphere for holding a four-party summit...has materialized yet." A US official in Washington said Mubaraks offer was conditional on an end to the violence. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said after separate meetings with Arafat and Barak that distrust was so deep that no one could guarantee there would be no trouble.

"What both will expect is that they see their opposite number doing all they can to discourage it," he said.

Palestinians are enraged by what they see as Israels use of excessive force against stone-throwing youths.

Israeli police threw a tight security cordon around the Old City in Jerusalem before Friday Muslim prayers, keeping hundreds of young Palestinians away from Al-Aqsa mosque and forcibly dispersing stone-throwing protesters at Damascus Gate.

Troops strengthened to close the West Bank and Gaza, isolating towns with tanks and concrete blocks.

Cook said Arafat told him he had ordered the arrest of some of those involved in the Ramallah lynchings, television images of which horrified Israelis. But Arafat would not confirm this to reporters.

"You know that we are making a very serious investigation and not to forget that 13 of our soldiers had been wounded defending them (the Israeli soldiers)," he said.

Barak has asked Ariel Sharon, a leading opponent of peace deals seen by Palestinians as having provoked the clashes, to join him in a "national emergency government". Sharon has not responded. staff and Reuters contributed to this report

-- Carl Jenkins (, October 13, 2000

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