- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2000

JERUSALEM Scattered clashes yesterday across the Gaza Strip and West Bank left two Palestinians dead, 17 injured and tensions high despite a truce agreement and plans for upcoming meetings in Washington.
President Clinton, who has been trying to restore calm to the region, will play host to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Thursday and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak three days later, the White House said yesterday.
Both Palestinians killed yesterday were shot dead in the Gaza Strip. One was Maher Mohammed Alsaidi, a 16-year-old boy hit in the head during a confrontation near the Al Bureij refugee camp, according to Shifa hospital director Mouawia Hassanian.
At least 10 Palestinians were wounded in Gaza, and seven were hurt in a West Bank clash outside Bethlehem, to the south of Jerusalem, according to Palestinian security forces.
In the West Bank, two Jewish settlers, a man and a woman, were wounded when Palestinian assailants ambushed their car and opened fire, settler spokesmen said. The military command confirmed the shooting.
In a plea for peace, tens of thousands of Israelis filled a Tel Aviv square on Saturday night to pay tribute to former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated at the site five years ago by an ultranationalist Israeli opposed to trading land for peace with the Palestinians.
The renewed violence has hardened attitudes on both sides and put seven years of peace negotiations on hold. Many dovish Israelis, including some of those at the rally, said their faith in the peace process has been shaken.
Many Palestinians, meanwhile, say they have little to show for the lengthy negotiations.
Mr. Barak yesterday told his Cabinet that the large turnout was "an impressive and emotional demonstration" of the Israeli commitment to peace.
"It's unfortunate that on the other side such a demonstration of the peace process could not occur," he said in a reference to the Palestinians.
In a speech at the Saturday rally, Mr. Barak warned Mr. Arafat that Israel "will not surrender to violence and we will defend our civilians and Israeli soldiers everywhere."
Mr. Arafat and his aides did not appear ready to tone down the rhetoric. The Palestinian leader met with families of the dead yesterday and his top aide, Tayeb Abdel Rahim, told the families: "The uprising will continue until we have an independent Palestinian state."
The Israeli-Palestinian violence broke out more than five weeks ago, claiming 170 lives the vast majority Palestinian in the worst bloodshed since peace talks began in 1993.
Mr. Arafat, in an interview with CBS, said a proposed Israeli peace settlement in July fell far short of the minimum Palestinian demands. Mr. Arafat said that if he had accepted, it would have been a betrayal of Muslims and would likely have led to his assassination by Palestinian militants.
"If I will betray, no doubt, one will come to kill me," Mr. Arafat said in an interview with "60 Minutes" that was to air last night.
The violence has shown some signs of abating since the Israelis and Palestinians reached the truce Thursday. The sessions in Washington would give Mr. Clinton another chance to try to promote a settlement.
"The meetings are to assess the situation on the ground and begin to find a way back to negotiations," said White House spokesman Jake Siewert.

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