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The BBC's Bill Hayton
"Outside intervention may be crucial if they are to stop the fighting gaining its own momentum"
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Terje Roed-Larsen, UN Special Co-ordinator
"The situation currently is getting worse by the day"
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Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres
"We require from Mr Arafat that he issue orders to all his stop shooting"
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Monday, 2 July, 2001, 23:28 GMT 00:28 UK
Mid-East truce 'close to collapse'
Scene of blast in Yehud
The blasts were the first inside Israel for several weeks
The Middle East is on the brink of a new crisis as the fragile truce agreed between Israel and the Palestinians is undermined by fresh violence, the United Nations has warned.

An Israeli motorist was shot dead on Monday afternoon, hours after two car bombs exploded in the central Israeli town of Yehud, near Tel Aviv - the first such attack inside Israel for two weeks.

The events of the last couple of days show how fragile the ceasefire is. All indications are now it will not hold

Terje Roed-Larsen
In the evening, a Palestinian man died in hospital after being shot by Israeli troops in the West Bank earlier in the day.

Israel's army chief Shaul Mofaz was unrepentant after the incident, saying any government would do likewise in response to attacks.

The US has apportioned blame to both sides.

"We think the Palestinians have not done enough to fight terror and to end the violence. We also want to make clear that we remain opposed to Israel's policy of targeted killings," said US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

The killings follow the deaths on Sunday of five Palestinians, including a prominent militant activist, who were killed by Israeli forces.

"The situation is very difficult," UN special envoy to the region Terje Roed-Larsen said after a meeting in Gaza with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

"The events of the last couple of days show how fragile the ceasefire is.

"If these incidents continue to happen... the ceasefire will not hold and we will face a new crisis.

"That's why it is now incredibly important for all parties concerned to hold back," he cautioned.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
Mr Arafat is calling for international condemnation
The motorist was killed near the West Bank town on Tulkarm, a spokesman for Jewish settlers in the region said. He was treated by medics but died at the scene, reports say.

Both the devices that exploded in Yehud were left in a car park close to a kindergarten. Security sources said the target appeared to be a nearby residential area. Six people were treated for shock.

In a statement, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) said it had planted the bombs in retaliation for an attack on Sunday by an Israeli helicopter gunship near the West Bank town of Jenin.

Three Palestinians died in that attack, including a prominent member of the militant group Islamic Jihad, Mohammed Besharat.

'Ugly crimes'

Mr Arafat angrily condemned Sunday's killings.

"This was a flagrant violation of the ceasefire," he told journalists on Monday.

"The international parties should move to condemn these ugly crimes against humanity, against the Palestinian people."

Since a truce mediated by the CIA Director George Tenet took effect on 13 June, at least 13 Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed.

'Preventative measure'

Israeli officials said the Jenin raid was carried out to prevent a "terrorist" attack that it said was being planned by Mr Besharat.

Mourners placed flowers in the burnt out car of Mohammed Besharat
Mourners placed flowers in Mr Besharat's burnt out car
Earlier on Sunday, two Palestinians - one of them a policeman - died in a gun battle with Israeli forces in the same area.

They too had links with Hamas. According to the Israeli military, they had been planning to plant a roadside bomb near a military base.

Palestinian security officials said the two were intending to set off a roadside bomb as a procession of Jewish settlers passed by later in the day.

In a separate development, Israel launched a series of air strikes against Syrian targets inside Lebanon over the weekend in retaliation for the shelling of Israeli positions by Hezbollah militants.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon agreed that a week-long test period was needed to see if the Palestinians were ready to comply with the US-brokered ceasefire.

But the Israelis and Palestinians disagree sharply over the agreement's timetable.

Under the plan, the week without violence is intended to lead to six weeks of cooling off, followed by confidence-building measures.

The Israelis insist the period of calm has yet to begin, while Mr Arafat said the seven-day countdown began last Wednesday.

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