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The BBC's Michael Voss in Jerusalem
"The Palestinians have reacted with dismay."
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The BBC's Stephen Cviic in Washington
"The choice of George Mitchell to head the committee is an imaginative one."
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By the BBC's Barbara Plett
"Palestinians say they will survive the blockade - as they have many times in the past"
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Wednesday, 8 November, 2000, 06:19 GMT
Mitchell gets Middle East role
Palestinian mourners at a Gaza funerl
Violence down - but the grieving and anger continues
Former mediator in the Northern Ireland peace talks George Mitchell, is to head an international commission of inquiry to investigate the wave of violence that has pitted Israeli against Palestinian since late September.

Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat agreed to the commission during a crisis summit with President Clinton and Middle East leaders at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt last month.

Senator George Mitchell: Key role
The White House confirmed that the former majority leader in the US Senate would chair the commission.

Senator Mitchell played a key role in bringing about the Good Friday Agreement in April 1998.

He was also involved in the talks which led to the establishment of the power-sharing Executive in December 1999.

The Palestinians have said the formation of a commission of inquiry would be an important part of the discussions Yasser Arafat is to have with President Clinton at the White House on Thursday.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, welcomed the announcement, saying those named were men of the highest integrity.

The two sides must be making a serious and good faith effort to implement [their] commitments

White House statement
More than 170 people, mostly Palestinians, have died in the violence, which began when Palestinians frustrated with the direction of the peace process rioted after Israeli hardliner Ariel Sharon visited the al-Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem, a site which is also holy to Jews.

"In order for the committee to carry out its mission, the two sides must be making a serious and good faith effort to implement the commitments they undertook at Sharm el-Sheikh to assure that the violence subsides," a White House statement said.

Palestinian dismay

The other panel members will be former US Senator Warren Rudman, former Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, EU foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana, and Norway's Foreign Minister, Thorbjorn Jagland.

Palestinian youths use slingshots against Israeli soldiers
Palestians announce moves to prevent child rioters

Mr Arafat had wanted a United Nations led inquiry, but that was strongly opposed by Mr Barak.

A senior Palestinian negotiator, Hanan Ashwari, reacted with dismay to the membership of the panel, saying that without a representative from Russia and a non-aligned country, it was incomplete.

However, a BBC correspondent in Jerusalem says the fact that an international investigation will take place is likely to be seen as a major breakthrough for the Palestinians.

The announcement comes two days before President Clinton is due to meet Mr Arafat and five days before he meets Mr Barak in a further attempt to revive peace efforts.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Israeli Government said there had been a sharp drop in violence involving Palestinians.

And the Palestinians said they were making efforts to prevent their children taking part in confrontations with Israeli forces.

Ehud Barak at the Israeli Lebanon border
Barak: Meeting Clinton on Sunday

Ready to fire

Earlier, Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian during unrest outside Rachel's Tomb, a shrine holy to Muslims and Jews at the entrance to Bethlehem in the West Bank.

And in the Gaza Strip, a man died on Tuesday of wounds received in clashes with Israeli soldiers last week.

The Israeli army said its forces came under fire several times in the Gaza Strip.

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See also:

23 Feb 00 | Northern Ireland
Mitchell blames lack of trust
03 Nov 00 | Middle East
Israel lobby group hacked
27 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Timeline: Good Friday to devolution
02 Nov 00 | Middle East
The Israeli army's dilemma
18 Oct 00 | Middle East
Children become symbol of struggle
02 Nov 00 | Middle East
Text of the Palestinian 'understanding'
02 Nov 00 | Middle East
Text of the Israeli 'understanding'
06 Nov 00 | Middle East
Arabs apathetic over US vote
24 Feb 00 | Northern Ireland
'No new Mitchell-style NI review'
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