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Israel closes borders with Palestinian-ruled areas after more deaths
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- After three drive-by shootings Monday that left four Israelis dead, Israeli authorities sealed off the borders of Palestinian-ruled towns.
"We are going to impose (a) closure of most or all of the Palestinian towns and Palestinian areas," announced Israeli Army Commander Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Eitan.
Four Israelis and four Palestinians died Monday, bringing the death toll to at least 227 people -- 192 Palestinians, 13 Israeli Arabs and 22 Israeli Jews, according to the Red Cross/Red Crescent.
Israeli officials said the drive-by shootings may signal a shift in tactics on the part of Palestinian gunmen.
In one incident, a woman settler riding in a white Fiat Uno died after gunmen in a car raked her vehicle with bullets. The gunmen sped away, and later opened fire on a bus, killing two Israeli soldiers.
At a border crossing in Gaza, an Israeli truck driver died after being wounded in a drive-by shooting. Authorities said the gunmen fired on his truck and a car.
In addition, two Palestinians were pronounced dead after being brought to a hospital in Gaza. Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis reported any major clashes in Gaza, and the circumstances around the deaths of the two were not known.
The nephew of the Palestinian head of preventative security in Gaza died of his wounds. A fourth Palestinian death was confirmed later in the day.
No other details were immediately available.
Barak insists on negotiated peace
Meanwhile, in the United States, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak followed his Sunday meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton in Washington with a trip to Chicago, where he was scheduled to address a conference of U.S. Jews.
After his meeting with Clinton, Barak gave reporters a brief statement that gave nothing away about the specifics of the talks.
"Israel strives for the peace that will be reached on the negotiating table, rather than imposing the will of one side on the other," Barak said after a 2 1/2-hour meeting that ended shortly after 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
Referring to the recent Camp David peace summit, Barak reiterated that Israel was ready to "contemplate far-reaching ideas in order to bring about peace."
"Unfortunately, we do hear different signals from the Arab side," he said. "I can just say that this is not the way."
But Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat said it was the Israelis who perpetuated the violence, telling the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in Qatar on Sunday that the Palestinians would not give up their fight to evict Israeli troops from Palestinian-held territories.
"Our people are determined more than at any other time to continue their holy struggle ... with the help of our brothers and friends," he said.
Disagreement over protection force
On Sunday, a bullet hit a car carrying United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson in the West Bank. It was unclear who fired the shot; Robinson was uninjured.
Robinson was meeting with the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council on Monday, while thousands gathered in Gaza for the funeral of a 15-year-old boy killed in a Sunday clash.
Barak traveled to Washington at Clinton's behest with the aim of discussing ways to end the violence and restarting the stalled peace process. Clinton held a similar meeting with Arafat on Thursday.
Arafat departed Washington on Friday, heading to New York, where he took his proposal for a 2,000-member protection force to the U.N. Security Council. Barak has rejected that proposal, as has the United States, citing Barak's rejection.
Israeli officials see Arafat's attempt to expand the players in the peace process to include the United Nations and the European Union as "writing new rules of the game." This, said one U.S. official, "questions American legitimacy in the process and basically says what has been done over the past seven years (of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking) is no good."
Barak's meeting with Clinton postponed by Russian hijacking
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