Seven more dead in Middle East violence

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The Independent Online

Three Israeli Arabs, one Israeli Jew and three Palestinians have died in a new wave of violence in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Arab towns in Israel.

Three Israeli Arabs, one Israeli Jew and three Palestinians have died in a new wave of violence in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Arab towns in Israel.

It brings to 36 the death toll in five days of unrest.

In the latest incidents, an Arab was shot in the head by Israeli security forces in the Israeli Arab town of Um al-Fahem. Hospital sources said a 17-year-old boy from the town also died of his wounds.

Israel said a Israeli Arab from Nazareth was shot dead in clashes with Israeli police.

Gunmen also shot dead an Israeli Jew in the West Bank. Israeli police said the 30-year-old man, killed at the entrance to the West Bank village of Bidya, was probably attacked by Palestinians but checks were still being made.

He was the first Jewish civilian to be killed in the violence.

A 17-year-old Palestinian civilian and a Palestinian security man, 25, were killed at the volatile Netzarim junction in the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip, hospital sources said.

Medical sources said a 24-year-old Palestinian policeman was shot dead by Israeli troops clashing with Palestinian stone-throwers near a Jewish West Bank settlement close to Jericho.

So far, 30 Palestinians, four Israeli Arabs, one Israeli border policeman and an Israeli Jewish civilian have died.

Palestinians have also stormed an Israeli army post in the Gaza Strip and battled Israeli forces in the West Bank, as international concern grew over five days of violence in which at least 34 people have died.

Israel's deputy defence minister ruled out peace talks with the Palestinians until the clashes end, underlining the damage dealt to hopes of reaching a deal to end a 52-year-old conflict.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan led the chorus of concern, saying: "I've been in touch with the two (sides') leaders and I appeal to them to do whatever they can to bring the situation under control and bring an end to the violence."

The two sides' leaders have agreed to try to halt the violence. But emotions are running high over the high death toll, the intensity of the clashes and the failure to agree on the future of Jerusalem.

Israel and the Palestinians blame each other for the violence, which began after Israeli right-wing leader Ariel Sharon visited a shrine in Jerusalem sacred to Jews and Muslims and in doing so, according to Palestinians, defiled the site.

Some of the fiercest clashes again erupted in Gaza, a Palestinian-ruled region which borders Egypt and is home to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

A group of Palestinians overran an army post near the Jewish settlement of Netzarim, tearing down and setting fire to an Israeli flag, witnesses said.

A gunfight broke out between Israeli security forces and Palestinian police as hundreds of youths hurled stones and bottles at the army post. One youth died, medical sources said.

Witnesses said Israeli security forces and Palestinians fought in the West Bank town of Bani Naim near Hebron, and medical sources said 39 protesters were hurt.

Seventeen others were reported wounded in Hebron itself, and medical sources said five Palestinians were wounded in the West Bank village of Bidya in clashes with Jewish settlers.

Israeli police said a 30-year-old Jewish man had earlier been shot dead in his car near Bidya and had probably been attacked by Palestinians.

Medical sources said 65 Arab Israelis were hurt by Israeli security forces who fired live ammunition as thousands of people hurled stones and set fire to tyres near the northern town of Um al-Fahem in Israel. An Israeli Arab was shot dead.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinians hurled stones and petrol bombs at Israeli soldiers positioned at a site revered by Jews as the burial place of the biblical Joseph. Army helicopters hovered overhead, witnesses said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said he had spoken to Arafat by telephone and urged him to quell the violence. Barak vowed to use any means, including tanks, to halt the bloodshed.

Deputy Defence Minister Ephraim Sneh reiterated Israeli charges that the violence was being orchestrated.

He said: "We are ready to proceed with the peace process but not under this wave of violence. It should be stopped and immediately."

But Palestinian leaders say they are not to blame for the clashes and accuse Israel of using excessive force to reinforce control of territories it captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Arafat has flown to Amman for talks with Jordan's King Abdullah. Details of the talks were not immediately available.

U.S. President Bill Clinton urged an end to the bloodshed in telephone calls with Arafat and Barak at the weekend and underlined the importance of saving the deadlocked peace talks. He failed to broker a treaty during a 15-day summit in July.

The White House said yesterday the sides had agreed to support a US-led, three-party inquiry into the fighting. Senior officials in Barak's office said Israel and the Palestinians would meet when the clashes ceased.

The Arab world has condemned Israel, and Sharon, over the violance. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak urged Arabs to hold a summit quickly to discuss the Arab-Israeli conflict.

French President Jacques Chirac called Sharon's visit an "irresponsible provocation" and said: "One does not fight against popular emotions with tanks."

The European Union urged an end to the violence and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Sharon's visit was "definitely counter-productive".

Meanwhile Pakistan ha condemned Israel for the latest violence with Palestinians and urged the United Nations to take immediate steps to end the killings.

A Foreign Ministry statement also called for UN actions to secure Israel's compliance with UN resolutions on the Palestinian question, ensure the safety of Jerusalem and "facilitate the realisation of the national rights of the Palestinian people".

"We share the deep anger and concern felt throughout the Islamic world over grave Israeli provocations and bloodshed of innocent Palestinians." the Pakistani statement said.

"Continuation of the violence threatens to wreck the peace process."

The statement added that Pakistan fully supported the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Al-Quds Al-Sharif (Jerusalem) as its capital.