One Palestinian killed in clashes

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The Independent Online

A truce agreement and planned peace talks in Washington have raised hopes that five weeks of violence could end soon, but scattered clashes Sunday left one Palestinian dead, more than a dozen injured and kept tensions running high.

A truce agreement and planned peace talks in Washington have raised hopes that five weeks of violence could end soon, but scattered clashes Sunday left one Palestinian dead, more than a dozen injured and kept tensions running high.

A 16-year-old Palestinian died from a gunshot wound to the head in clashes near the Al Bureij refugee camp in the eastern Gaza Strip, and 10 more Palestinians were wounded, according to hospital doctors.

In the West Bank, a Palestinian was shot in the chest and seriously wounded, one of seven hurt in clashes with Israeli troops outside Bethlehem, to the south of Jerusalem, according to Palestinian security forces.

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 current violence has hardened attitudes on both sides. 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 seven years of negotiations.

Speaking at the rally, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak on Saturday warned Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat that Israel would not surrender to violence and made an impassioned call for peace directed at the Palestinian leader.

"We will not surrender to violence and we will defend our civilians and Israeli soldiers everywhere," Barak said to applause.

"I call on you (Arafat) to put an end to violence and stretch your hand to the peace of the brave," Barak said.

The Israeli-Palestinian violence broke out more than five weeks ago, claiming nearly 170 lives in the worst bloodshed since the sides began peace talks in 1993.

The violence has shown some signs of abating since the Israelis and Palestinians reached a tentative truce Thursday. Also, U.S. President Bill Clinton has invited Arafat and Barak to Washington for separate meetings this week.

Arafat plans to meet the U.S. president Thursday morning, Arafat's spokesman Nabil Aburdeneh said.

"This visit is very important, it comes at a difficult time in the Palestinian territories and the Middle East peace process," Aburdeneh said.

Barak is likely to visit a day or two later, but wants the violence to subside before heading to Washington, Israeli officials said.

Israeli elder statesman Shimon Peres, who negotiated the current cease-fire agreement with Arafat, said the Palestinian leader was attempting to stop the violence.

"I am convinced that Arafat is making an effort now to reduce the riots," Peres told Israel radio. "He can't control everything. It will take a few days."

Arafat, meanwhile, accused Israel of not abiding by the cease-fire deal and said he wanted the United States to pressure Israel to comply.

"We want the Americans to push Israel into implementing what has been agreed upon," he told reporters Saturday in Gaza. "Israel was supposed to immediately lift the closures of Palestinian cities, lift the siege and reopen the (Gaza) airport. I'm sorry to say that until this minute the siege has not been lifted."

The sides have concluded several cease-fire deals, including one brokered by Clinton in Egypt, that never took hold. The latest agreement has shown signs of reducing the violence, though the daily clashes have continued.

At the Tel Aviv rally, Israelis said they were still committed to peace, though some were unsure how or when it might be achieved.

"We really don't know the way. We are one country but two people, Israelis and Arabs," said 49-year-old teacher Gafen Dolev-Doha, as candles flickered around her at the square. Rabin, a soldier-turned-peacemaker, "went along the way of war and blood but then thought, maybe there is another, better way."

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