Seven Palestinians Killed As Peres Starts U.S. Trip
By Alistair Lyon
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Bomb blasts and gunfire killed seven Palestinians on
Monday as Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres began a visit to the
United States to discuss an Egyptian-Jordanian peace plan.
An explosion in the Palestinian West Bank city of Ramallah leveled a
two-storey residence, killing a six-year-old girl, a boy of seven and a
man of 40. But Palestinian sources disagreed over whether Israelis had
caused the blast or Palestinian fugitives trying to make a bomb.
"I think that the Israeli government is behind it," Marwan Barghouthi, a
leader of the Palestinian Fatah movement, told Reuters. But the Israeli
army said it had no information about the late-night blast which also
wounded at least three people.
Others were trapped in the wreckage of the building, which sources at the
scene said had been inhabited at times by men wanted by Israel for their
role in a seven-month-old uprising. Some said they had been making a bomb
when it blew up.
The building was across the street from the headquarters of Palestinian
President Yasser Arafat, who was unhurt.
In the Gaza Strip, Palestinian militants fired mortar rounds at Jewish
settlement areas, the army said. Palestinians said five people were
lightly injured in the army's return heavy machinegun and tank fire.
The fresh violence -- and more earlier in the day -- underlined the
urgency of efforts to halt seven months of Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed.
Each side blames the other for pursuing the fighting in which at least 400
Palestinians, 75 Israelis and 13 Israeli Arabs have been killed.
Interviewed from the United States by Israel's Channel One television,
Peres said Israelis and Palestinians had an understanding -- but no sealed
agreement as yet -- that they were working to achieve a cease-fire.
Peres was to start his trip with a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan. He was scheduled to hold talks with Secretary of State Colin
Powell on Wednesday and see President Bush at the White House on Thursday.
Bush has met three Arab leaders and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in
the White House since taking office 100 days ago, but he has yet to see
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
Sharon said on Monday that Arafat should not be invited to Washington
before a "full cessation of hostilities" with Israel.
"I believe that, before being invited to Washington, Arafat should stop
terror," Sharon, speaking by videolink, told a conference of the
Anti-Defamation League in the U.S. capital.
A State Department report released on Monday cited but did not endorse
Israeli allegations that security officials in Arafat's Palestinian
Authority had taken part in attacks on Israeli targets.
U.S. counterterrorism coordinator Edmund Hull said that by including the
allegations in its annual report on "Global Patterns of Terrorism," the
United States meant they had some credibility, even if it could not prove
On the ground earlier, a bomb exploded in a parked car belonging to a
Jewish settler in Gaza, killing one Palestinian and wounding one, the
Israeli army said. The man killed in the blast had been working in the
Rafiah Yam settlement at the time.
TWO DIE IN VAN BLAST
In Gaza City, a van blew up in a garage, killing two Palestinians,
brothers-in-law aged 22 and 17, and wounding three in a nearby building.
The exact circumstances were not clear.
"So far our information tells us there was an explosion caused by a car
bomb," Palestinian police chief Ghazi al-Jabali told Reuters. "We have two
killed and three wounded." He said he could not say if Israelis or
Palestinians were behind the blast.
In the West Bank, a 38-year-old Palestinian was shot dead in Hableh
village as he tried to flee what residents said was an Israeli undercover
raid. Described by villagers as a collaborator with Israel, the man was
given a low-key funeral.
Thousands of Palestinians attended a symbolic funeral in the West Bank
city of Nablus for a suicide bomber who died in an attack on a Jewish
settler school bus on Sunday. The car bomb blew up without hurting anyone
in the armored bus. The military wing of the Muslim militant Hamas group
"The Jihad (holy war) against Israel will continue," chanted the crowd in
Nablus as a dozen masked men, dressed in white with dummy explosives
strapped to their waists, paraded to underline a Hamas pledge to send 10
suicide bombers to Israel.
In Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, hundreds of people, including dozens
of gunmen, protested at moves by Arafat to disband a multi-faction
"No to dismantling the Popular Resistance Committee," they shouted,
referring to a group of activists from Arafat's Fatah faction fighting
alongside militants from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Marxist Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Before flying to New York, Peres briefed Sharon and Defense Minister
Binyamin Ben-Eliezer on his talks with Egyptian and Jordanian leaders on
The Egyptian-Jordanian initiative, endorsed by Arafat, calls for an end to
violence, confidence-building measures and renewed peace talks.
Sharon rejects the plan's call for a freeze on building in Jewish
settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and for peace talks to pick up
where they left off under his predecessor.
Peres said he had told Egyptian leaders that Israel would move immediately
to make life easier for Palestinians. Israel's Defense Ministry said the
army aimed to ease blockades on West Bank Palestinian cities from Tuesday
Mekel said permits had been issued on Friday for another 11,000
Palestinians to work in Israel, bringing the total to more than 20,000,
including those who work in Jewish settlements or industrial zones on the
edge of the West Bank and Gaza Strip
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