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U.S. names Mitchell to head Mideast fact-finding commission
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, who brokered a peace agreement for troubled Northern Ireland two years ago, will head an international commission investigating six weeks of ugly violence between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.
The White House announced Mitchell's appointment -- along with that of fellow commission members U.S. Senator Warren Rudman, former Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, European Union foreign and security affairs chief Javier Solana and Norwegian Foreign Minister Thorbjoern Jagland -- on Tuesday.
Mitchell, a U.S. senator from Maine from 1980 to 1995, was chairman of the Northern Ireland peace negotiations that ended with the Good Friday Accord in 1998. Mitchell has returned to the area several times to help the parties around obstacles in the implementation of the accord.
The announcement, on the day Americans go to the polls to select the man who will follow U.S. President Bill Clinton in office, came just days ahead of planned meetings between the U.S. president and the leaders of the two sides.
Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat is scheduled to meet with Clinton on Thursday. His Israeli counterpart, Prime Minister Ehud Barak, comes to Washington on Sunday. No meetings between Barak and Arafat are expected.
While their constituents have fought on the streets of the West Bank and Gaza, Barak and Arafat blamed each other both for the start of the violence and its continuation.
One hundred ninety people -- all but 17 of them Palestinians or Israeli Arabs -- have been killed in the fighting since September 28, bringing an already shaky Israeli-Palestinian peace process to the brink of complete collapse.
Palestinian hospital officials said one Palestinian was killed in Bethlehem on Tuesday in a clash with Israeli troops. No other details were available.
Fishing boat explodes near Israeli patrol vessel
On another front of the continuing conflict, a fishing boat exploded near an Israeli patrol boat overnight, the Israel Defense Forces said Tuesday. The blast took the conflict beyond the sandy lands of the Palestinian territories to the waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
Captain Shlomo Frumer, commander of Israel's nearby Ashdod naval base, said on Israeli Army radio that the boat blew up near the Israeli-Egyptian border, off the coast of Palestinian-controlled Gaza, around midnight.
"The vessel was sailing quickly from south to north," he said. "As the patrol boat was making visual checks (of several fishing boats working in the area), the vessel turned in its direction and detonated."
The explosion sunk the fishing boat immediately. There were no Israeli casualties.
Israeli officials were unsure whether the boat was manned or detonated by remote control.
Last week, a car bomb killed two Israelis. The militant Islamic Jihad, dedicated to creating a Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel, claimed responsibility for that attack, as well as an earlier bicycle bomb attack that killed only the bomber.
Arafat and Barak to meet with Clinton in separate peace talks, White House says
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