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The BBC's Simon Crutchley
"It's the failure of the peace process that has brought Ehud Barak's reign to an end"
 real 56k

Thursday, 1 February, 2001, 23:17 GMT
Five dead in new Mid-East violence
Funeral in Gaza
Palestinian children at the funeral of Saber Abu Dahr in Gaza
A fresh outbreak of violence five days ahead of the Israeli election has left two Israelis and three Palestinians dead.

The Israelis were killed in separate shooting incidents in the West Bank.

Right-wing Israeli activists demonstrating
Right-wing Israelis, dressed as Palestinians, demonstrate against Barak
Two of the Palestinians were shot dead in the Gaza Strip. Israeli troops have confirmed they killed one of them.

The third Palestinian is reported to have been killed in the West Bank by other Palestinians who suspected him of collaborating with the Israelis.

The increased violence has raised fears of an upsurge in violence after the election which is expected to bring right-wing leader Ariel Sharon to power.

Drive-by shootings

Israeli civilian Lior Atias, 23, was shot several times by Palestinians who opened fire near the northern West Bank town of Jenin, in a zone under Israeli security control.

Ariel Sharon
Right-winger Ariel Sharon is way ahead in the election polls
Israeli public television said Atias had handed his car over for repairs at a Jenin garage and received a telephone call Wednesday asking him to pick it up near a Palestinian checkpoint.

Several hours later Shmouel Gillis, who lived in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, was killed when his car came under fire as he drove past the al-Arub refugee camp between Hebron and Bethlehem.

Palestinians shot

Early on Thursday, Israeli soldiers shot dead Saber Abu Dahr, 35, who was suspected of planting a bomb near the Karni crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip, the army said.

Israeli troops later killed Ahmed Mohsen, 22, in heavy machine gun fire near Karni, hospital officials said.

[Mr Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount] was an excuse for a violent campaign, the groundwork for which had already been laid

Israeli Government report into start of uprising
Also on Thursday, Palestinians shot dead a man suspected of collaborating with Israel in the West Bank village of Salfit.

The unrest that has engulfed Israel and the Palestinian territories since September has left nearly 400 people dead - the vast majority Palestinians.

Report vindicates Sharon

The violence has played prominently in the Israeli election campaign - with Mr Sharon promising to bring an end to the violence without making any concessions to the Palestinians.

Mr Sharon holds a lead of between 17% and 20% over Mr Barak, with about 20% undecided, in three polls to be published in Israeli newspapers on Friday.

Mr Barak has ruled out withdrawing his candidacy in favour of Labour Party veteran Shimon Peres - despite polls indicating that Mr Peres would improve the chance of a Labour victory over Mr Sharon.

The Israeli Government gave Mr Sharon a pre-election boost with a report into the beginning of the Palestinian unrest which cleared Mr Sharon of responsibility.

The violence started after Mr Sharon visited a disputed Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), in the Old City of Jerusalem on 28 September.

The report was prepared by the Israeli Foreign Ministry for an international fact-finding committee, chaired by former US Senator George Mitchell, which is charged with investigating the causes of the violence.

It said Mr Sharon's visit, "however sensitive," was not the cause.

"It was an excuse for a violent campaign, the groundwork for which had already been laid."

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See also:

25 Jan 01 | Middle East
Israeli shot dead in West Bank
18 Jan 01 | Middle East
Bloody end to Mid-East 'internet tryst'
22 Jan 01 | Middle East
Israeli child-killer escapes jail
28 Sep 00 | Middle East
Holy Jerusalem: The key to peace
26 Jan 01 | Middle East
Mid-East agreement 'seems impossible'
01 Feb 01 | Middle East
Barak defies doubters
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