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Barak outlines path to peace; Israeli helicopters open fire
CNN Correspondent Jerrold Kessel contributed to this report.
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, speaking at a high-profile session of the Israeli parliament Monday, held out the possibility of peace if Palestinians would stop their demonstrations. He also said he would be willing to return to the United States for more peace talks if necessary.
Within hours of Barak's speech, however, Israeli helicopters opened fire on cities in the West Bank and Gaza, witnesses said, apparently in retaliation for the killings of Israelis earlier in the day.
Barak's peace proposal came after another day of killings in a month of Israeli-Palestinian clashes that have left at least 161 people dead, 136 Palestinians, 13 Israeli Arabs and 12 Israelis, according to the Red Cross.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said he was "disappointed" by Barak's speech and blamed Israel for the continued violence.
"We had hoped Mr. Barak would really address the real issue," Erakat told CNN. "The real issue here is ending the Israeli occupation, ending the situation of abnormality and bringing both Palestinians and Israelis toward the shores of peace."
Barak told the Knesset that Israel currently did not have a peace partner in the Palestinians and that the window to peace was closing.
"Let the Palestinians know that we were ready to allow for the realization of some of their dreams even at a heart-rending price," Barak said. "But let the Palestinians realize we too have dreams. We too have national interests that we cannot compromise -- the security of Israel, unity of Israel and our sacred values."
A two-hour meeting with Likud opposition party leader Ariel Sharon on Sunday failed to result in an emergency coalition government that might have strengthened Barak's shaky hold on power.
Talks broke down after Barak refused to allow Sharon veto power over any future Palestinian peace agreement.
Barak's 'safety net'
But Barak was helped Sunday when the ultra-Orthodox Shas party promised to aid Barak for at least a month in warding off a no-confidence vote in the parliament, or Knesset. Shas called the offer a "safety net."
Following Barak, on Monday, Sharon delivered an address of his own.
"In my talks with the prime minister I discovered that he's not prepared to abandon the Camp David ideas, and I cannot be a partner to such a policy," Sharon told the Knesset. "Just imagine and think how much graver our situation would be if the old city of Jerusalem were for the most part handed over to the Palestinians according to the Camp David ideas."
The Jerusalem question
The status of Jerusalem under a final Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement was one of the most contentious issues during July's failed U.S.-brokered peace talks at Camp David, Maryland. Both sides claim Jerusalem as their traditional capital.
"If violence is reduced, and the fact-finding American-led committee goes to work," Barak told CNN immediately following his address, "we are ready to go (to the United States) and help put an end to violence."
Israel supports a proposed U.S.-led commission of inquiry into the Israeli-Palestinian violence, which began September 28 after Sharon visited an east Jerusalem shrine holy to both Muslims and Jews.
Palestinians reject the idea of the commission being led by the United States and favor a United Nations-led commission instead.
Israeli security guard killed
Israeli-Palestinian violence spread to east Jerusalem on Monday, when an Israeli security guard was shot and killed and another was critically injured at a national social security office. Israeli police said they believed Palestinians committed the attack.
"These events are not helping to put an end to violence," Barak said.
In other violence in the region reported on Monday, the body of an Israeli man who was stabbed to death near the West Bank town of Beit Jala was turned over to Israeli authorities.
Israel said five Palestinians and an Israeli officer were hurt in Gaza when Palestinians attacked a military patrol.
More violence was expected following funerals for seven Palestinians who died of their wounds or were killed on Sunday.
Late Monday, Israeli combat helicopters fired missiles on offices belonging to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement in the West Bank towns of Ramallah and Nablus, setting fire to at least one of the buildings, eyewitnesses reported.
In Gaza, helicopters unleashed missiles at the Fatah offices in Rafah, near the border with Egypt, the Voice of Palestine radio reported.
No injuries or serious damage were reported. The Israeli army called the strike a "warning operation."
"Since the Palestinians are beginning to wage something that approximates a guerrilla war, our helicopter attack was a signal that if there is one, we have the answer to it," Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh told Israel Television.
Arafat spokesman Nabil Abu Rudieneh said the attacks were unprovoked.
"This kind of escalation is almost like waging a war against the Palestinian people, and against its institutions," he told CNN. "What we are facing is a real war, a real siege."
Asked why Arafat had not called for an end to the violence, Rudieneh said, "We don't have any weapons which can harm the Israelis."
Sneh revealed Monday a new Israeli military policy to unleash troops specially trained in guerrilla warfare.
"Since we face a guerrilla warfare, we have to take measures which are counter-guerrilla," Sneh told CNN. "This is one of the relative advantages of the Israeli Defense Forces, and we are going to exercise them, to use them on the ground."
Israeli foreign minister to visit Washington
Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami plans to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Washington on Wednesday to discuss the continuing violence and prospects for resuming peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher renewed an offer from U.S. President Bill Clinton for separate meetings with Barak and Arafat.
Calling again for the mutual pullback that Barak and Arafat pledged in an emergency summit two weeks ago in Egypt, Boucher said, "We want to see them disengage, we want to see them lessen the violence, and that they will do everything they can to get the peace process back on track."
Palestinian negotiator says violence will stop if Israel withdraws troops
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