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Archive for Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Pact doesn’t quell violence

Palestinians, Israelis clash after leaders ink peace deal

October 18, 2000

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— Less than an hour after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat agreed to end the violence that killed 100 people, fighting again broke out in the West Bank town of Ramallah and spread throughout the area.

"We should have no illusions about the difficulties ahead," President Clinton said, announcing the pact. "If we are going to rebuild confidence and trust, we must all do our part, avoiding recrimination and moving forward."

Clinton and other world leaders, gathered in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheik, had been working around the clock since Monday to find a way to end nearly three weeks of deadly clashes that have shattered Middle East peace prospects and threatened to destabilize the region.

Shortly after Clinton's announcement, a Palestinian police officer was killed in a shootout with Israeli troops at the Erez crossing point in the Gaza Strip. Earlier Israeli settlers near Nablus shot dead a Palestinian after an argument in an olive grove. The settlers contend Palestinians had come at them with metal bars; the Palestinians said they were just picking olives and were shot by a Jewish gang.

Other outbreaks followed. Dozens of youths in Bethlehem, vowing to continue their uprising "for a hundred years" threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli troops guarding the Jewish shrine Rachel's Tomb. They were repulsed by rubber-coated steel bullets and stun grenades.

In the agreement reached Tuesday, Israel agreed to move its troops back from Palestinian positions in the region and reopen the Gaza airport and Palestinian areas closed during the violence. The Palestinians accepted that a U.S.-sponsored fact-finding committee would investigate how the violence started, with the United Nations consulting rather than leading the investigation as Arafat had wanted.

Each leader also agreed to consult with the United States within two weeks about how to revive peace negotiations. But in the hours that followed, each man placed the burden of success on the other.

Barak said he would give Arafat 24 hours before deciding whether the agreement was dead before it had a chance to come to life.

"I say this sadly, we will know what to do in any situation which presents itself," Barak said.

Arafat said that for him, "the most important aspect about everything that happened yesterday and today is the way things are carried out. We expect them to be carried out precisely and reliably."

Both Israeli and Palestinian analysts said it would take a day for Arafat's instructions to filter down to his furious people if indeed he gives them any. But the initial signs didn't look promising.

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