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CNN Today

Violence in Israel Threatens to End Peace Process

Aired October 20, 2000 - 1:06 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 where violence apparently continues with gunfire and rock-throwing between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians in the West Bank. The fighting comes as a 48-hour period for easing tension in the region has ended.

CNN's Mike Hanna joins us from Jerusalem with the latest on what's going on there now -- Mike.

MIKE HANNA, CNN JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF: Well, a series of serious developments have taken place within the last few hours that puts under risk the undertakings reached at Sharm el-Sheikh earlier on in the week; and puts at risk, too, the broader peace process itself.

On this day at least eight people have been killed, all Palestinians, in a series of clashes in the West Bank. In the town of Ramallah, Palestinian demonstrators once again coming up against Israeli security forces. At least one Palestinian teenager killed in that particular clash. This was described by one experienced observer as the most intense clash seen in what is now nearly a month of very serious clashes, indeed.

This clash followed a mass demonstration within the streets of Ramallah itself; and also there were major clashes in the region of Nablus, another West Bank town. There, a number of Palestinians were killed in Israeli fire following a number of confrontation between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.

In the last hour, as well, reports of bullets fired into the Jewish residential neighborhood of Gizo (ph) on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Reports, too, that tanks stationed there -- Israeli tanks, have responded with machine gun fire. The situation is serious.

Mr. Barak, the Israeli prime minister, expected to make a statement within the hour. However, it is understood that Israel says it will freeze or place a timeout on the peace process following thing weekend's Arab league summit in Cairo.

Well, here to explain what this means is Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner. Thank you very much, indeed, for joining us, sir.

This question of a timeout, as it is put, a reviewing of the peace process -- does this mean that the peace process is going to be put on hold? AMB. AVI PAZNER, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: Not yet. What it means is that we have a very serious situation on the ground, as you have said yourself. Shooting has erupted everywhere. There is a lot of bloodshed, a lot of violence.

And instead of going toward a cease-fire, like we wanted after the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement, we are going, here, toward deterioration, as we can see today -- that the situation on the ground today is worse than it has been for many days after Arafat called for a day of anger, today; which means, of course, that the Palestinians are going to attack Israelis everywhere.

HANNA: Is the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement over? Is it finished -- has it collapsed?

PAZNER: We do not believe so because we are ready to carry out our part of it. We have started already to carry out our part of it, which was to lift the closure of the territories; we did that. To open the airport, we did that. We did, even, some redeployment of forces.

The problem is that Arafat was not interested -- is not interested in going to the summit when there is quiet in the territories. Arafat, who might regret, needs blood and violence at the Arab summit, so he has continued the violence; and now one of the result will be that we will have to reconsider our position after the summit. Where are we going from now?

HANNA: Avi Pazner, thank you, indeed, for joining us.

The peace process now facing the greatest threat it has in the seven years since it has begun.

I'm Mike Hanna, CNN, reporting live from Jerusalem.

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