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The BBC's Jeremy Cooke
"Both sides are now conducting this conflict in a series of gun-battles"
 real 56k

Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Ephraim Sneh
"We are not at war with the Palestinian people. We are war with terrorist organisations"
 real 28k

Palestinian Justice Minister Freih Abu Meddein
"They (the Palestinians) have lost all hope for the future"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 13 February, 2001, 16:41 GMT
Israelis kill Arafat bodyguard
Wreckage of the car that Massoud Ayad was travelling in
Palestinians inspect the car Ayad was travelling in
Israeli helicopter gunships have killed one of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's bodyguards in the Gaza Strip, in what the Israeli army describes as an "anti-terrorist" action.

Israel says the man, Massoud Ayad, was also working for the militant Islamic group Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon.

Palestinian protest in Bureij camp, Gaza Strip
Palestinians protested at the death of Bilal Ramadan in the Gaza Strip

The attack comes as Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon seeks to finalise a draft agreement with his defeated opponent, Ehud Barak, on forming a coalition government.

Mr Barak, who is still caretaker prime minister, congratulated the army for carrying out the assassination and said it was a clear message that militants must not harm Israeli citizens.

"Anyone who intends to harm Israelis will not escape and the long arm of the Israel Defence Forces will know how to locate and even the score with them," Mr Barak said.

'War crime'

The army has accused Mr Ayad of carrying out attacks against the Jewish settlement of Netzarim and planning to kidnap Israelis.

Funeral of Bilal Ramadan in Gaza Strip
Bilal Ramadan, 14, was shot near a Jewish settlement

Palestinian officials have branded the attack a war crime. They accuse the army of liquidating about 20 activists it suspected of anti-Israeli attacks since the Palestinian uprising - or intifada - erupted in September.

"The Palestinian National Authority strongly condemns this ugly crime and condemns the Israeli Government's pursuit of an assassination policy against its cadres and citizens," the Ministry of Information said in a statement.

Hundreds of Palestinians gathered by Mr Ayad's burnt-out car, which had been hit by at least three missiles, shouting "Death to Israel".

Boy killed

In a separate incident in the Gaza Strip, a 14-year-old Palestinian boy, Bilal Ramadan, was shot dead as he walked home from school.

Palestinians say he was shot by Israeli soldiers, but the army denied the charge, saying the boy may have died as a result of internal Palestinian fighting.

Palestinian police said one of their checkpoints was later seized by Israeli troops near the Erez crossing on the Israel-Gaza border.

Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon will not talk peace while the violence continues

Heavy exchanges of gunfire continued across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, following fighting in the Khan Younis refugee camp which left scores of Palestinians injured.

Violence in the Palestinian territories has flared again since Mr Sharon's election last week.

The prime minister-elect has said he will not talk peace to the Palestinians while the unrest continues on the ground.

Mr Sharon's Likud party is continuing negotiations with the opposition Labour party over forming a government of national unity.

Draft agreement

The two sides have reached a draft agreement which states that Israel will honour previous peace deals with the Palestinians and will continue efforts to reach a permanent peace

Details of the document published in Israeli newspapers include:

  • Previous peace agreements with the Palestinians to be honoured if ratified by the Israeli parliament
  • Israel to make every effort to reach peace with its neighbours
  • No new Jewish settlements to be established in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The draft agreement, which makes no mention of an eventual Palestinian state, speaks of the need for painful compromises on both sides.

Labour and Likud agreed that a joint government would only seek an interim accord with the Palestinians, not a final peace deal.

A branch of Mr Arafat's Fatah movement has said it would undercut Mr Sharon's promise of bringing security by stepping up attacks on Israelis.

Mr Sharon's advisers, in turn, have pledged harsher retaliation.

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See also:

13 Feb 01 | Middle East
New surge in Middle East violence
12 Feb 01 | Middle East
Sharon upbeat on coalition deal
10 Feb 01 | Middle East
UN probes Mid-East violence
09 Feb 01 | Middle East
US steps into Mid-East cauldron
08 Feb 01 | Middle East
Mid-East war of words
06 Feb 01 | Middle East
Sharon victory: An Arab nightmare
22 Jan 01 | Middle East
Q&A: What hope for peace?
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