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Four Palestinians dead in latest clashes with Israelis
Diplomatic efforts to end conflict continue
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Four Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israelis in Gaza and the West Bank on Saturday, while key figures from both sides of the Mideast conflict scrambled to find a diplomatic end to two months of bitter violence.
One Palestinian was killed in fighting at Khan Younis in Gaza. Two other Palestinians died in the West Bank town of Jenin, and a fourth was killed in a clash in Nablus, where a funeral had been held for two brothers killed on Friday.
The brothers were killed, and their sister and a neighbor wounded, by Israeli shelling in the nearby village of Kufr Kalil in the West Bank. The Palestinians said there was no provocation for the Israeli attack; the Israelis said they shelled the village after they were attacked from it.
Two Israelis also died on Friday -- a soldier killed in Khan Younis and a civilian killed in an ambush on the road between Ramallah and Nablus in the West Bank. The latest fatalities pushed the death toll to over 270 since September 28. Most of the dead are Palestinians or Israeli Arabs.
In Hebron on Saturday, Israeli soldiers conducted what they called an "engineering project" -- bulldozing a Palestinian vineyard that they said shielded a Molotov cocktail attack on Israeli settlers on Friday.
Barak, Arafat speak by phone
While the conflict continued unabated in the Middle East, diplomatic efforts to bring the violence to a halt also wound on.
Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat flew from Moscow, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin , for Amman, Jordan, where he was to press his case with Jordanian King Abdullah II.
While in Amman, Arafat visited wounded Palestinians being treated in hospitals there, officials said.
Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, has expressed its full backing for the Palestinians and has held back from sending its newly appointed ambassador to its embassy in Tel Aviv.
During the Moscow meeting, Putin arranged a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Barak and Arafat spoke, agreeing to reopen joint liaison offices closed by the Israelis on Thursday when one of the offices was bombed, killing an Israeli officer and wounding two Palestinian policemen.
All three leaders agreed that the bitter violence must end, but Arafat said later that Putin had not offered any concrete plans for ending the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
"There was no wider Russian peace initiative," Arafat said. "The focus was on halting the violence."
Search for a solution
Toward that end, both sides kept diplomatic channels open. Israel announced that Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami would travel to Moscow to meet with his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov. Arafat was to fly to Egypt for more meetings with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak after meeting with Abdullah.
Barak was preparing to send adviser Danny Yatom to Egypt for a meeting with Mubarak.
U.S. Secretary ofState Madeleine Albright was also involved, speaking with both Barak and Arafat earlier in the week.
On Sunday, the U.N. fact-finding mission headed by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, who led the battling Northern Ireland parties to a peace agreement two years ago, is to hold its first organizational meeting.
The Palestinians pushed for the mission, which will be charged with sorting out the causes of the current round of violence. The Israelis had objected to the committee, saying it could not operate fairly until the violence had ended.
Arafat pursues diplomacy in Jordan
Israeli Governments Official Website
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