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The BBC's Jim Fish
"In Gaza, peace is not on their minds"
 real 56k

Thursday, 23 November, 2000, 12:35 GMT
Israel on alert after bombing
Blast scene
The Hadera blast ripped through a rush-hour bus
Israel is weighing up its response following a car bombing in which two people died and more than 60 were injured in the northern city of Hadera.

Armed forces were put on alert as Prime Minister Ehud Barak said he held the Palestinian Authority responsible for the blast.

One senior Palestinian official warned that Israel was preparing a "re-occupation" of Palestinian territories in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Nothing remains except for [the Israelis] to completely reoccupy the West Bank and Gaza Strip

Palestinian security official Mohammed Dahlan

In continuing violence, a Palestinian man was shot on Thursday morning following an explosion near the Erez crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

The Israeli army said he was killed, but Palestinians said the man was a farmer who had been injured.

Peace blueprint

The Israeli cabinet is scheduled to hold more emergency talks on Thursday, after ending a two-hour meeting without making any public statement.

A new US plan has been put forward to break the spiral of violence. The blueprint, put forward by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, says:

  • Palestinians should end shootings, create buffer zones between protesters and the Israeli army and arrest those responsible for bomb attacks.
  • Israel should withdraw its forces, end economic sanctions against the Palestinians and restrain its use of force.

Mrs Albright spoke by phone to Mr Arafat and to Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami.

Mr Ben Ami says the Americans told him that the Palestinians want to re-enter talks.

Checkpoint in Gaza Strip
Israeli security has been tightened in the Gaza Strip
He said he interpreted that as a sign of fatigue on the part of Mr Arafat and a signal that Palestinians were looking for a way out of the current situation.

Palestinian officials said Mr Arafat offered to resume negotiations but only if the Israelis fulfilled previously made undertakings, including withdrawing their forces.

As the US continued its efforts, it was announced that Mr Arafat is to have talks in Moscow on Friday with President Putin.

Correspondents say the Russians are keen to show that they have a role to play, and Mr Arafat will seek Mr Putin's support for a UN observer force to be sent in.

Petrol filling
Gaza Strip residents are stocking up on fuel as an Israeli blockade bites
The spectre of an Israeli invasion was raised by Mohammed Dahlan, chief of Palestinian security in Gaza.

"Israel has occupied half of Gaza and half of the West Bank and nothing remains except for them to completely reoccupy the West Bank and Gaza Strip and this is what we are expecting and what we are preparing for," Mr Dahlan told the Arabic-language Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.

Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war. It has handed full or partial control of about 40% of the land to the Palestinians.

Mr Dahlan's comments follow a week of worsening violence.

On Monday, an attack on an Israeli school bus in the Gaza Strip provoked a massive bombardment of Palestinian-controlled areas.

Blast survivor
Hadera victims were visited by Israeli PM Ehud Barak
It was Israel's heaviest attack in nearly two months of fighting which has left more than 250 people dead, the vast majority of them Palestinians.

On Wednesday Israel shot and killed four Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Later that day the huge car bomb exploded in Hadera.

Two militant Palestinian groups have said they carried out the attack - the military wing of the militant Hamas group, and a previously unknown group calling itself the Islamic Revolution to Liberate Palestine.

Groups such as Islamic Jihad and Hamas have carried out many deadly car bombings in the past in an attempt to derail Israeli-Palestinian peace moves.

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