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Crisis in the Middle East: New Violence Today Reflects Difficulty Implementing Sharm el-Sheikh Cease-Fire

Aired October 19, 2000 - 2:34 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Now to the Middle East. New violence today reflects the difficulty in putting into action a cease-fire that Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to earlier this week.

Here's a report from CNN's Jerrold Kessel.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A hillside shootout that threatens to undermine the incipient efforts to curb the three-week confrontation. A Palestinian was shot and killed, a Jewish settler bled to death of wounds during the two-way firefight, several people on both sides wounded.

The unfolding battle went on for hours, the Israeli army saying it had difficulty evacuating the wounded settlers until dark. Israelis were following the battle with concern on their television screens. Each side blamed the other for firing first; also at first unclear what the busload of settlers were doing on the hillside on the outskirts of the West Bank town of Nablus. Eventually, after nightfall, the army reached the stranded settlers, but there will likely be serious scars from this battle.

Earlier, tentative signs the Sharm el-Sheikh commitments were slowly being implemented on the ground, Palestinian traffic flowing past some sideline Israeli checkpoints. Israel also re-opened a border crossing, allowing goods in and out of Gaza, though Palestinians, including tens and thousands of day workers, are still not permitted to enter Israel.

The first flights took off from Gaza's international airport after the facility had been kept closed by Israel for a week. It seems as if the two sides were holding themselves back from the brink.

But many friction points remain. In the town of Hebron, under joint Israeli-Palestinian control, and elsewhere, scattered clashes continued. In Ramallah, for the first time in three week, a different scene in the streets: a concert. The purpose, however, in the same vein as the Palestinian protests and clashes with Israeli troops: to press for an end of Israeli occupation.

This woman came directly from a memorial for her 30-year-old son killed in one of the clashes. Her other six sons vowed to ignore Sharm el-Sheikh and continue the battle.

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, PALESTINIAN POLITICAL ACTIVIST: The qualitative change has happened already regardless of the level of clashes here and there. Again, the uprising is not only about clashes, it's about a new status, a new state of mind. And the new state of mind is already there. It's about defiance of occupation.

KESSEL: Israel insists that the commitments undertaken at Sharm el-Sheikh must be kept as concluded.

AMNON LIPKIN-SHAHAK, ISRAELI CABINET MINISTER: The only option is to stop violence and then talk. There is no way to talk and to shoot. You want to talk, talk. You want to shoot, shoot.

KESSEL (on camera): For now, the only talk is all about the ongoing shooting.

Jerrold Kessel, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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