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The BBC's Paul Wood in Jerusalem
"The firepower is on the Israeli side"
 real 56k

Saturday, 25 November, 2000, 15:46 GMT
Putin proposes Mid-East observers
The funeral of Israeli Sergeant Samer Hussein
Druze clerics at the funeral of an Israeli army sergeant
Details have emerged of a Russian plan to end the bloodshed between Israelis and Palestinians, including the deployment of international observers to the Palestinian territories.

Israel is now preparing to send envoys to Moscow and to Egypt to discuss the crisis.

Yasser Arafat and Vladimir Putin
Arafat and Putin: But will Israel accept observers?
Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinians have called for the death of the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at mass funerals in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

And at least three Palestinians have been killed in fresh violence, reports say.

The Palestinian envoy in Moscow, Khayri al-Arini, outlined the main components of the Russian plan developed at talks in Moscow between President Putin and the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Mr Barak also took part in the talks by telephone.

New mechanisms

The Russian plan would be rolled out in three phases:

  • Phase 1: International observers would go to the Palestinian territories to oversee a calming of the situation.

  • Phase 2: A waiting period until the results of the US elections are known while calm is maintained.

  • Phase 3: "A return to the negotiations in a different way and with a new mechanism and a new formula for the sponsorship of the peace process."

Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami is to fly to Moscow on Monday for further discussions with Mr Putin.

Policy reversal

And on Sunday, Mr Barak's chief security adviser is due in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, for talks with President Hosni Mubarak who withdrew his ambassador to Tel Aviv on Tuesday in protest at Israel's tactics in the West Bank and Gaza.

All of these meetings will be useless if we are first unable to limit the level of violence

President Vladimir Putin
Israel would have to accept a major policy change if it were to embrace the Russian plan.

The current Israeli position is that it will not accept any international force, armed or unarmed, except as part of an overall peace settlement.

Correspondents say Mr Arafat is keen to see Russia play a greater role in the peace process as he considers the Americans to be pro-Israeli.

The latest American plan, put forward by Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, calls on the Palestinians to end the shootings, create buffer zones between the protesters and the Israeli army and to arrest those responsible for bomb attacks.

The Israelis are being asked to withdraw their forces, end economic restrictions against the Palestinians and to restrain their use of force.

Change in tactics

Early on Friday the Israeli Government announced a changed in its military tactics, ruling out immediate military action in response to Palestinian attacks.

Israeli 'counterproductive' response policy
12 October
Ramallah and Gaza bombed after lynching of soldiers
9 November
Rockets kill Fatah militia commander and two bystanders after series of ambushes on troops
15 November
Rocket attacks on Hebron, Jericho and Beit Jala after more ambushes
20 November
Dozens of rockets hit Gaza after roadside bomb kills 2 settlers
Correspondents say it is worried that previous Israeli military strikes against Palestinian targets have damaged Israel's image and have been counter-productive.

And in a sign of conciliation, Mr Barak and Mr Arafat decided to reopen eight joint liaison offices which Israel closed on Thursday after an Israeli soldier was killed in an attack on one of them.

But the violence continued and by the end of Friday the number of deaths in nearly two months had risen to more than 270, the vast majority of them Palestinian.

They included 25-year-old Major Sharon Arama - shot dead in the southern Gaza Strip - the highest-ranking Israeli military victim since the start of the clashes.

About 10,000 Palestinians marched through the West Bank town of Nablus on Saturday for the funerals of two brothers killed by Israeli fire in a nearby village the day before.

Another 3,000 attended a funeral in the Gaza Strip for 22-year-old Ziad Khalil Abu Jazar.

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See also:

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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