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Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 20:03 GMT 21:03 UK
Mitchell confident of Mid-East talks
Clashes on Wednesday near the Rafah border between Gaza and Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip
Palestinian youths take cover from Israeli fire
Former US senator George Mitchell, who delivered his blueprint for peace in the Middle East this week, says violence has made life "unbearable" for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Mr Mitchell said he was confident the situation would force both the Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.

For people on both sides, it's a fearful situation

George Mitchell
Speaking in Belfast, Mr Mitchell said the Israelis were fearful and anxious about what he called random terrorism, while the Palestinians faced everyday humiliation.

In the latest clashes, Palestinian officials said two young men were killed in the Gaza Strip - the first Palestinians killed by the Israelis since the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, called for a ceasefire on Tuesday.

Israeli troops entered two Palestinian-controlled areas of Gaza after Palestinian militants fired mortar bombs at a Jewish settlement, the Israeli army said.

As tanks tried to enter the Rafah refugee camp, a deaf 18-year old Palestinian boy was killed, apparently unaware of a gun battle raging around him, Palestinian medical sources said.

In a separate incident, a 15-year-old Palestinian was shot dead during an Israeli incursion into the Canada refugee camp, also in the Gaza strip, a Palestinian official said.

The soldiers withdrew after a brief exchange of fire, said Israeli sources.

Border tension

The clashes came amid tension on Israel's northern border after an Israeli warplane shot down a Lebanese light aircraft.

The Israelis say they were concerned it might have been a suicide attack to mark the first anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon.

Wreckage of Lebanese plane
The Lebanese pilot was killed

The conflict spilled over into Israel when police evacuated Tel Aviv's central bus station because of a security alert.

On the political front, the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, met President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo to discuss the situation in the Palestinian territories.

Mr Arafat has called for a new round of peace talks to discuss ways of implementing the Mitchell report, which proposes ways to end the violence.

Mr Sharon has rejected a freeze on building in Jewish settlements, a key recommendation of the report.

But he has declared a unilateral conditional ceasefire, which the Palestinians have dismissed as a publicity stunt.

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