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The BBC's Hilary Andersson
"No-one slept through the night of fighting"
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Peter Hirschberg, senior writer, Jerusalem Report
"The United States is still the major power broker"
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Friday, 24 November, 2000, 16:06 GMT
Israeli-Palestinian security ties renewed
Israeli police argue with Palestinians before Friday prayers
Israel could lift blockade before Ramadan
As diplomatic efforts to end nearly two months of violence gather pace, the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, and the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, have agreed to renew security co-operation.

Both leaders decided to reopen joint liaison offices during a telephone conversation arranged by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who held talks with Mr Arafat in Moscow.

Arafat and Putin: Hope of breakthrough
Israel had closed eight such offices in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on Thursday, after an Israeli soldier was killed in an attack on one of them.

A spokesman for Mr Barak said the Palestinian leader had agreed to do everything possible to end the current violence.

But as the talks took place, an Israeli man was shot dead near the West Bank town of Nablus, and three Palestinians died in clashes with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Earlier on Friday, the Israeli Government announced it had ruled out immediate military action in response to Palestinian attacks that have killed Israeli soldiers and civilians in recent days.

We must not act as if it's a game of ping-pong and attack the night after an attack as everyone expects

Ephraim Sneh
In a separate development, the Palestinian cabinet minister, Jamil al-Tarifi, told Reuters news agency on Friday that Israel had agreed to lift the blockade of Palestinian towns before by the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan next week if there was an end to the violence.

Mr al-Tarifi said the agreement had been reached at a surprise meeting held on Thursday between the Israeli Deputy Defence Minister, Ephraim Sneh, and a senior aide to Mr Arafat, Tayeb Abdel-Rahim.

But Mr Sneh said no conclusive agreements had been reached.

New hopes

During Mr Arafat's visit to President Putin both men spoke by telephone with the Israeli prime minister.

We must not act as if it's a game of ping-pong and attack the night after an attack as everyone expects

Ephraim Sneh

It was the first time the Israeli and Palestinian leaders have spoken for more than three weeks.

As well as agreeing to reopen their joint security co-ordination offices, Mr Arafat and Mr Barak "pledged to analyse" the Russian proposals which were met "with understanding", Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Avdeyev told reporters.

Mr Arafat, like most Arab leaders, has been critical of the United States as a mediator, considering it pro-Israeli, and been keen to promote Russia's role in the peace process.

Earlier, Mr Putin said that unless the violence were sharply reduced, "all of these meetings will be useless," warning that the Middle East was "on the verge of a catastrophe".

Free hand

On Friday Israel's security cabinet gave Prime Minister Barak a free hand to find new ways to end the crisis that has cost more than 260 lives, mostly Palestinian.

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Dozens of rockets hit Gaza after roadside bomb kills 2 settlers
Many observers had been expecting a strong military response from Israel after a car bomb exploded on Wednesday in the northern Israeli town of Hadera, killing two Israeli citizens.

But the deputy defence minister told Israeli army radio: "We have to respond in a more intelligent and efficient way to cause the least possible damage on the Israeli side."

"We must not act as if it's a game of ping-pong and attack the night after an attack, as everyone expects."

A BBC correspondent in Jerusalem says several Israeli ministers, including Mr Barak himself, are worried that previous Israeli military strikes against Palestinian targets have damaged Israel's image and have been counter-productive.

Violence continues

An Israeli man was killed by a Palestinian gunman near the West Bank town of Nablus on Friday, Israeli officials said.

There have also been reports of sporadic clashes in other parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after Muslims held traditional Friday prayers.

Thousands of Palestinians thronged the streets of the West Bank town of Nablus, demanding revenge as they attended the funeral of a bomb-maker for the militant group Hamas who was killed in an explosion on Thursday.

Earlier on Friday, two Palestinians were reported to have died from bullet wounds incurred earlier this week.

Blast scene
Israel has ruled out immediate military retaliation
Earlier this week, Israel launched its biggest military operation yet in the current unrest after two teachers were killed in an attack on a Jewish school bus in the Gaza Strip.

That resulted in Egypt - the leading Arab nation in attempts to bring the two sides together - recalling its ambassador to Israel.

Mr Barak is sending a senior security official, Danny Yatom, to Egypt on Sunday for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

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22 Nov 00 | Media reports
Egypt press lauds Israel envoy recall
23 Nov 00 | Middle East
Russia enters Mid-East fray
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