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The BBC's Jeremy Cook
"The developments are against international law"
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Uri Avnery, the Gush Shalom peace group
"The real peace movement is standing firm and looking for a new approach to the problem"
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Saturday, 5 May, 2001, 08:14 GMT 09:14 UK
Report criticises Israeli settlements
Ariel Sharon with settlers at Atzmonah, Gaza Strip
Ariel Sharon defies calls to stop settlement expansion
An international commission investigating the Israeli-Palestinian violence has called for a halt to all Israeli settlement building on occupied land, according to leaked details of its findings.

The draft report by the commission, headed by the former American senator George Mitchell, has not yet been published.

But it is understood to warn that it will be hard to stop the violence unless all settlement building in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is frozen.

Palestinians throwing stones at Israeli soldiers in Hebron
Hundreds of Palestinians have died in seven months of violence
Israeli sources say the document also criticises the Palestinians.

According to the leaked details, it speaks of a worrying lack of control over Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's security forces and other armed Palestinian elements.

Israel and the Palestinians have been given two weeks to examine the report, during which they have been asked not to make any public comment.

But as they absorb the details, violence continues on the West Bank.

Israeli soldiers shot dead an Islamic Jihad militant near the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Saturday, according to witnesses.

They said Israeli special forces hit Ahmed Khalil Issa Ismail, 35, with more than 20 bullets in an early morning attack in the village of Ertass, close to Bethlehem.

The Israel army said it had "no record" of an operation or disturbances in the area.

Islamic Jihad activists have been behind attacks in the past that have killed scores of Israelis.

Sharon visit

The Mitchell Commission reportedly does not blame either side for starting the fighting which has raged for some seven months.

The Palestinians say the violence was triggered by Ariel Sharon's controversial visit to holy sites in Jerusalem when he was still the Israeli opposition leader.

Former US Senator George Mitchell
Mitchell's team was set up as part of the peace effort

Mr Sharon - who became prime minister in February - has gone so far as to describe the Mitchell Commission report as an "historic mistake". He says no one has the right to put Israel on trial.

His stated policy is that there will be no halt to settlement expansion unless it is part of a comprehensive peace deal.

Difficulties

The commission was set up at an Arab-Israeli summit last October, but it has been dogged by difficulties ever since.

Its other recommendations are believed to include an end to the use by Israeli forces of rubber-coated metal bullets against unarmed Palestinian demonstrators.

Israel may however take comfort from the commission's apparent failure to back Palestinian calls for an international force to be deployed.

At least 500 people have died since Palestinians began a widespread uprising against Israeli occupation in September, including about 420 Palestinians and 75 Israelis Jews.

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See also:

27 Apr 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Is Sharon coming or going?
23 Oct 00 | Middle East
Claiming the 'Promised Land'
04 May 01 | Middle East
Mid-East report under scrutiny
27 Apr 01 | Middle East
Israel considers peace plan response
27 Apr 01 | Middle East
Jerusalem's beleaguered tourist trade
25 Apr 01 | Middle East
Gaza blast kills four
08 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
Mitchell gets Middle East role
03 May 01 | Middle East
Bush gives Peres hope for peace
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