Two dead despite Mid East peace agreement

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The Independent Online

Two Palestinians have been shot dead just hours after Israel and the Palestinians agreed to "immediate concrete measures" to end violence in the West Bank and Gaza.

Two Palestinians have been shot dead just hours after Israel and the Palestinians agreed to "immediate concrete measures" to end violence in the West Bank and Gaza.

An Israeli policeman was also seriously injured when Palestinian militiamen fired on a Jewish neighbourhood in Jerusalem.

More than 100 people have now been killed, most of them Palestinians, in 20 straight days of fighting.

The widespread violence erupted despite a summit that produced a truce announced today by US President Bill Clinton.

One of the dead Palestinians was named as farmer Farid Nasrara, 28, killed by Jewish settlers near the West Bank town of Nablus when he was hit in the abdomen by automatic rifle fire, according to witnesses and hospital doctors.

Three Palestinian villagers were also injured. Palestinian witnesses said the shooting was unprovoked.

But Yehoshua Mor-Yosef, a settler spokesman, said the farmers first attacked the settlers with knives and iron bars, and that the settlers fired warning shots in the air before aiming at the Palestinians. Two settlers were arrested by Israeli police.

Clintonÿs announcement, made at the end of an emergency conference in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, was met with extreme skepticism by both Israelis and Palestinians.

Standing before Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who signed no formal agreement and made no statement themselves, Clinton said both had agreed to make "public statement unequivocally calling for an end to violence" that has killed more than 100 people in two weeks.

The agreement came at the end of two days of talks brokered by Clinton, with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other leaders.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, host for the summit acknowledged that the outcome "may not meet the expectations of our people." It takes a step, however, toward resuming permanent peace efforts "after the region is stabilized," he said.

Clinton said Barak and Arafat agreed to maintain calm and prevent the recurrence of violence.

The closing session came against a backdrop of more violence in Gaza, as hundreds of Palestinians settler threw stones and firebombs at an Israeli border crossing, drawing return fire that injured 10 demonstrators.

The leaders worked late into the morning hours and were up early again, with Clinton shuttling back and forth between Arafat and Barak to work out final wording of his statement.

"We have made important commitments here today against a backdrop of tragedy and crisis," Clinton said. But, he added, "we should have no illusions about the difficulties that await us."

Clinton said Israel and the Palestinians need to get on "the pathway back to negotiations."

He said the United States and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan would be involved in a fact-finding mission aimed at figuring out cause of the latest round of violence.

Clinton's description of that settlement seemed to indicate Arafat had compromised on his demand for an international fact-finding probe of the violence that tore across the Palestinian territories and Israel after right-wing Israeli leader Ariel Sharon visited a religious site in Jerusalem holy to Jews and Muslims.

Barak, mindful of consistent world condemnation of Israel through the decades, had insisted any investigation be conducted by the United States, Israel and the Palestinians.

Clinton, summarizing the accord, said the fact-finding committee's final report would be submitted under U.S. auspices for publication and that U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan would be involved in the process.

Clinton also said Israel would reopen a Palestinian airport in Gaza.

Barak aide Amnon Lipkin-Shahak said it was not important that Barak and Arafat speak at the end of the summit.

"We all came here in order to bring an end to the activities on the ground," he said. "Whatever can bring an end to it is good for me."

Arafat aide Nabil Shaath, characterizing Palestinian feelings at the end of a grueling summit, said, "We are not happy, but we want to protect the lives of our people."

CIA director George Tenet joined the talks on Tuesday, concentrating on security measures.

White House spokesman Jake Siewert said there were no eruptions of angry words in any of Clinton's meetings. "People have been straightforward, focused on solutions and not finger-pointing," Siewert said.

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