- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 27, 2002

JERUSALEM Palestinian militants killed two European peacekeepers in the West Bank yesterday, pushing Washington's 2-week-old truce mission in the region to the brink of collapse.
Truce negotiations have snarled in recent days, raising the specter of another round of violence, possibly more ferocious than any previous ones.
The U.S. special envoy, retired Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, has been in the region since March 14, trying to broker a cease-fire based on principles drafted last year by CIA Director George J. Tenet an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank and Gaza and Palestinian sanctions against militants.
The violence has dropped off somewhat since Gen. Zinni's arrival but has not halted entirely. Two Palestinian bombers blew themselves up after being confronted by soldiers near an Israeli mall yesterday. No Israelis were wounded in the blast.
Hours later, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on observers from an international force in the West Bank town of Hebron, killing two of them, as they traveled on a road used primarily by Jewish settlers, Israeli officials and witnesses said.
A Norwegian official in the West Bank described one of the dead peacekeepers as Turkish and the other as Swiss. A third observer, also Turkish, was slightly wounded.
The observers were members of TIPH the Temporary International Presence in Hebron an observer force stationed in the divided city since an Israeli settler massacred 29 Palestinians in 1994.
About 450 Jews live among 130,000 Palestinians in the town.
The few dozen observers travel in white cars marked with the word TIPH, documenting abuses by both Israelis and Palestinians. It marked the first time a member of the force was killed in the violence.
The slayings are sure to reverberate in Beirut, where dozens of Arab leaders are gathering for a two-day summit.
Members of the conference will consider a Saudi proposal to offer peace with Israel in exchange for a complete withdrawal from lands occupied in the 1967 Middle East war including the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat declined to attend the summit yesterday. He found unacceptable threats by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that if he left the West Bank, he might not be allowed to return.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak also decided not to go.
Israelis and Palestinians say they generally accept the Tenet proposal but object to some of its details.
Israel wants Mr. Arafat to commit unconditionally to specific measures against militants, including disarming all armed groups.


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