- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2000

JERUSALEM Palestinians shot dead four Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in violence that Israel's deputy defense chief said looks less like a Palestinian uprising and more like a war of attrition.

Two Palestinians also died in clashes with Israeli troops, bringing the death toll from nearly seven weeks of fighting to 213, the vast majority Palestinian.

The escalating violence came as a senior Israeli official warned in Washington that the Palestinian uprising could trigger a regional war against the Jewish state.

"The change in [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat from negotiation to confrontation … gives a cause to all the lunatics in the region to drive the region to another broad-scale confrontation," said Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh.

Mr. Sneh said Iraq has moved five divisions toward its border with Jordan to threaten Israel and that Iran and Syria have boosted support for terrorist groups, including Hezbollah.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who was in Chicago yesterday, addressing Jewish leaders, vowed to take unspecified measures in response to the shooting attacks, which caused the highest single-day casualty toll for Israelis since the fighting began in late September.

An official traveling with Mr. Barak said President Clinton has asked Israelis and Palestinians to restart peace talks and use the next two months to forge a permanent peace accord.

"Clinton asked Arafat to enter into accelerated negotiations before the end of [Mr. Clinton's] term," said the official, who refused to be identified. He said Mr. Barak, who met Mr. Clinton in Washington Sunday, was ready to revive peace talks, but only if the level of violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip declined substantially.

Judging from yesterday's events, a quick return to the bargaining table appeared unlikely.

The day began quietly, until the afternoon when Palestinian gunmen, driving on a road that links Israeli settlements in the West Bank, opened fire on an Israeli car. The driver, a female resident of one of the Jewish settlements, was killed and a passenger was lightly wounded.

Officials described the woman as a schoolteacher, but gave no other information pending notification of her family.

The Palestinian car continued on the same road past the Ofra settlement, where gunmen fired again, this time on a bus carrying Israeli troops. Two soldiers, ages 18 and 19, died in that attack and six were wounded.

By the evening, another Israeli was shot when Palestinians directed gunfire at a truck carrying goods to Jewish settlements in Gaza, killing the driver.

Palestinians call the clashes, which began Sept. 28, their new intifada or uprising. But Mr. Sneh said protest demonstrations are being replaced by guerrilla tactics attacks with automatic rifles near settlements and army bases or along the old "green line" of Israel's 1948-1967 borders.

Some Palestinian stone throwers continue to attack Israeli troops, who killed two Palestinians yesterday.

"What's happening now in Israel is that a military government has run over, with its tanks, the political solution," said Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, an aide to Mr. Arafat.

Mr. Sneh called on the United States to "rebuild a moderate front a strategic configuration of those states committed to the peace process to oppose fundamentalism and extremism."

The United States and Israel are discussing the possibility of a wider war and are exchanging intelligence information that could warn of major troop movements in the region, said Mr. Sneh, who effectively controls operations by the Israel Defense Force since Mr. Barak is also defense minister.

"This is a CNN war the aim is to put Israel in a corner, to bring in an international force to protect the Palestinians," said Mr. Sneh, formerly commander of Israeli troops in southern Lebanon and governor of the West Bank.

"Arafat wants to drag us into a trap one missile misses a window and hits an Arab family or, God forbid, a hospital. To reach our goal, we have to be cautious, not adventurous," he said.

• Ben Barber contributed to this report from Washington.

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