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The BBC's Barbara Plett in Jerusalem
"Funerals turn into angry demonstrations"
 real 56k

Israeli Government Secretary, Isaac Herzog
"We view the events of today very seriously"
 real 56k

Senior Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat
"They are escalating their attack against the Palestinian people"
 real 56k

Yitzhak Rabin's widow, Leah Rabin
"I feel Mr Arafat was pushed and pushed into a corner"
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Wednesday, 1 November, 2000, 20:51 GMT
Deaths mar push for peace
Beit Jala
The Palestinian town of Beit Jala came under heavy Israeli fire
Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Barak is holding an emergency meeting of his inner cabinet to discuss the worsening confrontation between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Israeli troops have been trading heavy gunfire with Palestinian militants on a day that has left five Palestinians dead and at least four Israeli soldiers wounded in clashes and gun battles in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

A Palestinian youth runs for cover during fierce clashes
A Palestinian youth runs for cover during fierce clashes
In an attempt to halt the violence that has claimed some 160 lives - most of them Palestinian - the former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres is meeting Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Mr Barak said beforehand that Mr Peres would not be negotiating with Mr Arafat.

An Israeli Government spokesman said Mr Peres, who shared a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 with the Palestinian leader, was one of the few Israelis who could still talk to Mr Arafat.

Fierce clashes

A television station in Abu Dhabi has reported that two Israeli soldiers have also been killed in the gun battles. Israeli officials have not confirmed the reports.

Before the cabinet meeting Mr Barak warned the Palestinians of grave consequences if they failed to stop the uprising.

Shimon Peres
Shimon Peres is meeting with Yasser Arafat

Late on Wednesday, there were reports that an Israeli soldier was critically wounded when he came under Palestinian fire north of the Palestinian-ruled town of Jericho in the West Bank.

Israel responded by launching helicopter rocket attacks on a Palestinian Authority building in Jericho.

Diplomatic moves

Earlier, Israeli helicopters opened fire with rockets and machine guns on a Palestinian village near Bethlehem after at least four Israeli soldiers were wounded in a gun battle.

Two Palestinians - a policeman and a civilian - were killed in the fighting.

And in the Gaza Strip, three Palestinian youths died in clashes with the Israelis.

The fact the incitement continues and the encouragement of violence and the failure to act can lead to tough results

Ehud Barak
Israeli soldiers have also traded fire power with Palestinian gunmen shooting at the Jewish settlement of Gilo near Bethlehem.

This has been a particular flashpoint because the Israelis feel Jerusalem itself is coming under attack. Earlier on Wednesday, there were reports of a bomb explosion in west Jerusalem. One person was reported to have been lightly injured.

Amnesty criticism

The increasing violence is putting more pressure on diplomatic efforts to bring the two sides together.

Mr Arafat is also sending his senior negotiator, Saeb Erekat, to Washington for talks with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. According to a State Department spokesman, the two are due to meet on Friday.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami was due to meet separately with Mrs Albright late on Wednesday.

The moves come amid criticism by the human rights group, Amnesty International, of Israel's use of "excessive force" in the crisis.

The group said violations of human rights during five weeks of violence could constitute war crimes.

The group also criticised Palestinians for firing on Jewish settlements and said they had a duty to prevent children from putting their lives at risk.

The Palestinians have proposed sending a 2,000 strong unit of United Nations military observers to Gaza and the West Bank to help assure the safety of Palestinian civilians.

But correspondents say the US would certainly veto any force that did not have Israel's explicit consent.

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See also:

01 Nov 00 | Middle East
Shimon Peres: Back at centre stage
31 Oct 00 | Middle East
Israeli hardliner vows to topple Barak
31 Oct 00 | Middle East
Rockets blast Arafat offices
30 Oct 00 | Media reports
Barak and Sharon slug it out
31 Oct 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Israel's new military strategy
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