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Agreement to implement cease-fire reached, Barak's office says

From staff and wire reports

JERUSALEM -- A two-hour meeting between two Nobel Peace Prize winners has resulted in an agreement to implement a cease-fire in the Mideast, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's office said Thursday.

The meeting in Gaza between Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres -- who with the late Yitzhak Rabin shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize -- has yielded an agreement to implement a cease-fire forged in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh last month.

"An understanding was reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on a series of steps on the basis of the Sharm understanding that are due to lead to the renewal of security cooperation and a halt to the violence and incitement," Barak's office said in the statement.

There was no immediate comment available from the Palestinian Authority.

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Barak's office said the agreement has put a stop to retaliatory steps that Israel's security Cabinet had sought overnight in the wake of the killing of three Israeli soldiers on Wednesday.

Six Palestinians died in Wednesday's violence, Bring the death toll to at least 175 since the unrest began on September 28.

Barak and Arafat are both expected to announce the agreement in joint statements at 2 p.m. Thursday local time (7 a.m. EST).

'Welcome development'

The White House welcomed the announcement.

"We have been informed of this by both parties. It's a welcome development, and we'll be looking for full compliance by both sides," said White House National Security Council spokesman P.J. Crowley.

Earlier in Washington, acting Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami said the killing of the Israeli soldiers showed the conflict with the Palestinians was "a war in many senses," but he also said the two sides might be able to save peace talks and reach a settlement.

While the Israeli Cabinet had given no details of the steps it planned, Israel told staff at Palestinian television stations in the West Bank town of Hebron on Wednesday to evacuate their premises. Similar warnings in the past were followed by Israeli military attacks on the buildings.

Two Israeli soldiers and three Palestinians were killed Wednesday during a gunbattle south of Bethlehem. Four other Israeli soldiers were injured, CNN was told.

Israeli helicopters were called in after the Israel Defense Forces said four of its soldiers were wounded in exchanges of gunfire with Palestinians. Jewish settlers in the area were also said to have been involved in the fighting.

One of the three Palestinians killed was a 30-year-old Palestinian policeman who witnesses said was not involved in the fighting. Palestinian officials said at least 17 Palestinians were wounded.

The other Israeli soldier was killed in fighting in Jericho. Later, Israeli helicopter gunships fired on Palestinian organizations in the area.

gunfire
Bullets light the sky on Wednesday night over Gilo, a predominantly Jewish neighborhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem on land claimed by the Palestinians  

Israeli forces opened fire on the Palestinian town of Beit Jala after they said Palestinians were firing into an Israeli neighborhood in the disputed enclave of Gilo on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Earlier Wednesday, two Palestinian teen-agers were shot in the head and killed by Israeli troops at Karni crossing in Gaza. Later, another Palestinian was killed in the same area.

Doctors said the two teens killed Wednesday were 15 and 16 years old.

A massive funeral that drew thousands of mourners was held Wednesday in Gaza City for four people killed at the crossing Tuesday. The body of one of the teen-agers killed Wednesday was also brought to the mass funeral for burial at what the Palestinians are calling a "martyr's cemetery."

Mourners called for new attacks and resistance against Israeli forces.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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RELATED SITES:
United Nations
Israel Defense Forces
Addameer: Palestinian Human Rights Association
Clashes Information Center
Palestinian State Information Service
Live Western Wall Camera at Aish
Palestinian National Authority Home Page
The Israeli Government's Official Web site
The Knesset, Israeli Parliament
Likud Home Page
About the West Bank
Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees
U.S. State Department

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