Three dead in Middle East violence

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The Independent Online

Two Israelis and a Palestinian have been killed in the latest day of violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Two Israelis and a Palestinian have been killed in the latest day of violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

An Israeli security guard died and another was seriously injured after being shot at close range in an Arab neighbourhood of Jerusalem.

In separate incidents, an Israeli man was found stabbed to death and a Palestinian man was shot dead by Israeli security forces.

Israel's Deputy Defence Minister Ephraim Sneh warned today that Israel will deploy special army units trained in guerrilla warfare in the current battles against Palestinians,

He said Israeli troops would no longer only respond to Palestinian gun fire, but take the initiative.

"Now we are saying that instead of following a method which is somewhat mechanical, we will use a method which uses our advantages ... small units, units well-trained in guerrilla warfare," Sneh told Israel army radio.

So far, Israel's response to gunfire has included tank shells and missiles shot from helicopter gunships.

Palestinian shooting attacks on Jewish settlements and Israeli army posts have become routine in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but today's incident marked the first time in more than a month of fighting that an Israeli was killed in Jerusalem.

Heavy gun battles also erupted overnight in several locations, including the West Bank resort town of Jericho, once a tranquil Judean Desert oasis.

Bullets shattered the glass facade of the Oasis Casino, once a magnet for Israeli visitors.

For the second time this month, the army sealed Jericho, barring Palestinians from entering or leaving the town.

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Barak told his hostile parliament that his hand was still stretched out in peace, but that it would not make concessions to the Palestinians under the threat of violence.

The beleaguered Barak opened the winter session of parliament as the leader of a minority government. However, he was in no immediate danger of being toppled after Israel's third-largest party, the ultra-Orthodox Shas faction, gave him a reprieve by saying it would not vote against him for the next month.

He defended his policies against hecklers from the hawkish opposition who accused him of not being tough enough and Arab legislators who complained that Israel has been using excessive force against the Palestinians.

Barak said Israel faced a difficult future and urged Israelis to unite. He said he would respond firmly to Palestinian shooting attacks on Israelis.

"Israel shall not stand by idly and shall not accept attacks on its soldiers and citizens. We shall do everything in order to defend our soldiers and citizens," he said.

Barak, who controls only 30 seats in the 120-member parliament, has been courting the leader of the hawkish opposition, Ariel Sharon, whose visit to a disputed Jerusalem shrine last month as been cited by the Palestinians as the trigger for the current violence.

However, Barak and Sharon remained at odds over the terms of their cooperation. Sharon wants the right to veto negotiations with the Palestinians.

Barak said that if the violence ebbed, it was possible to resume negotiation. Any Israeli government headed by Barak, "whatever its composition, will have a deep commitment to the peace process," said Barak adviser Gadi Baltiansky.

Political commentators said it was unlikely Sharon's Likud would join Barak's coalition. Despite his failure to woo Sharon, Barak appeared in no immediate danger of being toppled. The ultra-Orthodox Shas party, citing a national emergency, said it would not vote against the government for the next month.

Without Shas, which controls 17 seats in parliament, a drive by the opposition to topple Barak would lose its momentum. Shas is a former member of Barak's coalition, but defected in the summer to protest concessions to the Palestinians.

Arafat, meanwhile, said the top PLO decision-making body would convene November 15, the anniversary of a symbolic 1988 proclamation of Palestinian independence, but was evasive when asked whether he would declare statehood on that day.

Arafat said this was up to the 129 members of the PLO Central Council, and not to him. Arafat advisers have said privately a statehood declaration was unlikely at this time.

US President Bill Clinton has been trying to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and has invited Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to Washington for separate talks, though no date has been set.

At least 143 people, most of them Palestinians, have been killed in 33 days of Israeli-Palestinian fighting.

"In the name of the majority of the people in Israel, I tell chairman Arafat today: know that by violence you shall not achieve anything," Barak said.

He noted he had been ready to make far-reaching compromises to conclude a peace agreement with the Palestinians, implying that the door to such a treaty remained open.

"The Palestinians should know that we were willing to fulfill part of their dreams, even at a heart-breaking price," said Barak.

Arafat, speaking earlier today in Gaza City, gave no sign that he would rein in the gunmen. Asked what his message to his people was, he said: "Until Jerusalem, until Jerusalem, until Jerusalem, the capital of our independent Palestinian state."