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Conflict in the Middle East: Barak Calls Killing of Settler Terrible Blow to Peace

Aired January 15, 2001 - 1:04 p.m. ET

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

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: The Mideast peace process, which was not exactly on firm footing to begin with, today suffered what the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, called a terrible, terrible blow.

We're going to show you some pictures and a report from CNN's Mike Hanna, some of which are quite disturbing, but we will fill you in more on what is going on now in the Mideast. Here's Mike Hanna's report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Israeli forces conducting a massive search in Gaza, this following the disappearance of a Jewish settler who was believed to have been abducted by Palestinians. The man's body was found in the early morning near the Kfar Yam settlement. His car was discovered in the nearby Palestinian town of Carnyunas (ph), where it had been set on fire.

Israel has reimposed the closure on Gaza that was lifted mere days ago and has canceled a negotiating session with Palestinians due to take place in the course in place of day.

Despite repeated contacts between negotiators and security chiefs in recent days, the public rhetoric between the two sides has remained heated. In its main bulletin Sunday night, Israeli television broadcast amateur video of an execution carried out in Gaza Saturday. Majdi Makawi is shown bound to a stake and hooded as he faces a nine- member Palestinian police squad. Makawi had been found guilty, by a Palestinian court, of collaboration with Israelis that led to the killing of Palestinian activists.

The execution, condemned by the Israeli government and human rights bodies, but defended by Palestinian leaders as a consequence of what they insist are planned assassinations by Israeli special forces.

By refusing to comment about individual killings, the Israeli government insists it will do whatever is necessary to counter what it calls terrorist activities.

GILEAD SHER, CHIEF ISRAELI NEGOTIATOR: I would say that in light of the transition periods that lie ahead, we must keep both the reduction of violence process and the political process alive. HANNA: But both these processes now in jeopardy, the flurry of contacts between the parties in the past week under threat as events on the ground once again disrupt attempts at face-to-face negotiation.

Mike Hanna, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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