From: Michael Wilson (MWILSON/0005514706at_private)
Date: Thu Jan 15 1998 - 11:06:03 PST

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                    Confrontation between Israeli, Palestinian troops
          Copyright ) 1998 Nando.net
          Copyright ) 1998 The Associated Press
       KHAN YUNIS, Gaza Strip (January 15, 1998 10:19 a.m. EST
       http://www.nando.net) -- Israeli and Palestinian troops trained assault
       rifles on each other Thursday during a protest, a sign of growing
       tension ahead of a Washington summit on Mideast peacemaking.
       The confrontation started when about 400 Palestinian demonstrators
       blocked a main thoroughfare near the Palestinian town of Khan Yunis,
       leaving several Israeli cars stuck on the road.
       Dozens of Israeli soldiers, apparently fearing the vehicles would become
       an easy target for attack, took up positions with their rifles trained
       on the demonstrators. Palestinian policemen then arrived, aiming their
       rifles at the Israeli troops.
       The two sides lowered their weapons after about 20 minutes, but remained
       at the scene until the demonstrators dispersed.
       In another confrontation about a mile away, Israeli troops shot at a
       Palestinian taxi, wounding a passenger in the leg when he opened the
       door. It was not immediately clear why the soldiers opened fire.
       Israeli-Palestinian tension has been rising in recent days, days before
       separate meetings that President Clinton has scheduled with Israeli
       Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
       Next week's talks are seen as critical for the future of Mideast
       peacemaking; if they fail, violence could result.
       Arafat has hinted at new clashes, saying that all Palestinian options
       remained open. Asked Thursday to explain further, Arafat said: "I am
       worried about the whole region."
       Israeli security officials believe the Palestinians have hoarded weapons
       and conducted assault training in preparation for a possible violent
       conflict with Israel, the Maariv daily reported Thursday. The Israeli
       army has carried out its own exercises under the code name "Indian
       Summer," the report said.
       The Israeli Cabinet hardened its positions on peace talks this week. The
       ministers said Israel would hand over West Bank land only if the
       Palestinians meet a 12-page list of demands, most dealing with security.
       They also decided that in a final peace accord, Israel must retain vast
       areas of the West Bank -- land the Palestinians want as part of a future
       The Cabinet started Thursday to tackle the core issue of the
       Clinton-Netanyahu meeting -- the scope of an Israeli troop pullback in
       the West Bank.
       The Cabinet may set general parameters, but probably will not decide on
       the specific size of a withdrawal, said David Bar-Illan, the prime
       minister's senior adviser. A final decision was not expected until
       Clinton expects Netanyahu to present plans for a significant and speedy
       troop withdrawal when the two leaders meet Tuesday.
       Thursday also marked the anniversary of the U.S.-brokered Hebron accord
       in which Netanyahu pledged to carry out three pullbacks in the West Bank
       by mid-1998. Israel's first offer in March to hand over 2 percent of the
       land was rejected by the Palestinians as insufficient. The second
       pullback is two months overdue.
       Netanyahu has said he was no longer bound by the withdrawal timetable
       because the Palestinians have not fulfilled their promise to crack down
       on militants. Netanyahu has said he was ready to carry out one pullback,
       not three, before beginning talks on a permanent peace agreement.
       Maariv reported that Netanyahu planned to propose a single pullback from
       9 percent to 12 percent of the West Bank when he meets with Clinton. If
       the Palestinians insist on an additional withdrawal, each pullback would
       be smaller in size, Maariv said.
       Arafat has termed the Israeli positions a violation of the peace
       accords. Still, it was not clear whether Israel would stick to the 12
       pages of conditions, and a senior U.S. diplomat said they should be
       considered an opening position only.
       By IBRAHIM BARZAK, Associated Press Writer
       Thursday January 15 9:13 AM EST 
    Arafat says Israel Impeding Washington Talks
       By Wafa Amr
       HEBRON, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian President Yasser Arafat on
       Thursday accused Israel of blocking progress at peace talks in
       Washington next week on a long-overdue handover of West Bank land.
       Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are to separately
       meet U.S. President Bill Clinton to try to overcome 10 months of
       stalemate in peacemaking.
       "They're (Israel) putting all the obstacles before going to Washington
       while we are looking to achieve something concrete from these meetings
       in Washington," Arafat told reporters in English at a joint news
       conference with British Foreign Office Minister Derek Fatchett.
       "It (the Washington meeting) is a turning point not only for the
       Palestinians and Israelis but for the whole region as well," said the
       Palestinian leader who wants the United States to pressure Israel to
       hand over more land.
       Palestinians are angry at an Israeli cabinet decision this week that
       identified large segments of West Bank land as "vital national
       interests," suggesting they could not be ceded to Palestinians.
       The United States criticised the cabinet decision. On Tuesday, the
       cabinet decided not to make any withdrawal until Arafat's PLO meets a
       12-page Israeli list of demands on carrying out security and other
       commitments agreed on in a U.S.-brokered document a year ago.
       Fatchett, whose country is currently head of the European Union's
       rotating presidency, said the bloc was "looking for a substantial and
       meaningful redeployment by the Israeli government."
       Palestinians and other Arabs have looked to the EU to offset what they
       regard as U.S. bias towards Israel, but the European group lacks
       Washington's political clout in the Middle East.
       Arafat met the British junior minister in the West Bank town of Hebron
       which under a 1997 interim peace accord divided the city into Israeli-
       and Palestinian-ruled sectors.
       Hebron is holy to Moslems and Jews as the burial place of the biblical
       Abraham. Some 400 Jewish settlers live in heavily armed enclaves in the
       heart of the city of more than 100,000 Palestinians.
       A minor scuffle broke out between seven settler leaders and Palestinian
       police and civilians in Hebron on Thursday when the settlers tried to
       enter a Palestinian-ruled area to pray at a Jewish shrine without first
       coordinating with police.
       Witnesses said the settlers then staged a demonstration to mark the
       first anniversary of the Israeli troop pullback from 80 percent of the
       volatile town.
       In Palestinian-ruled Gaza, security forces were investigating the
       shooting of a Palestinian in his leg, apparently by an Israeli soldier,
       near where hundreds of Palestinians protested at Israeli expansion of
       Jewish settlements and Wednesday's cabinet decision, witnesses said.
       Khalid al-Khatib, secretary of the Islamic National Committee to Defend
       Land, told Reuters: "The aim is to declare our total rejection to the
       Israeli policy of settlements and land confiscations, especially after
       the Israeli government's decision yesterday to keep the largest lands of
       the West Bank in their hands."
       Israeli soldiers and Palestinian police tried to defuse the tensions on
       a Gaza road near Kfar Darom Jewish settlement.

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