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Palestinian killed; Israeli soldier stabbed
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- A Palestinian was shot dead overnight in Gaza in unknown circumstances, and the Israel Defense Forces said an Israeli soldier is in critical condition after being stabbed in the neck Sunday near the West Bank town of Ramallah. The soldier's attacker escaped.
Hospital sources and Israeli Radio confirmed the death of the Palestinian.
The death toll in nine weeks of Mideast violence now stands at almost 300, most of them Palestinians.
Circumstances of man's death disputed
As darkness fell over the West Bank, gunfire could be heard.
Earlier Sunday, Palestinians held an emotional funeral for a man shot dead by Israeli soldiers under circumstances that are being disputed. The Israeli Army said the man was shot Saturday near Ramallah when he brandished a gun at Ayosh Junction.
But the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said the man was a 26-year-old electrician who had been holding a drill while working at the window of a damaged building.
Israel to cooperate with inquiry
As part of the efforts to end the violence, Israel said on Sunday that it would cooperate with a U.S.-led international inquiry into the violence. Israel, in the past, had been reluctant to go along with the probe as long as the violence continued.
The five-member committee, led by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, includes diplomats from the United States, the European Union, Turkey and Norway.
Election preparations under way
The ongoing violence, meanwhile, formed an unsettling backdrop to the preparations for Israeli elections. Prime Minister Ehud Barak and his opponents agreed last week to move toward early elections, probably in April or May.
Barak vowed to keep searching for a solution to the Mideast deadlock and secure a peace deal with the Palestinians. This includes an interim agreement that would leave out particularly contentious issues such as the final status of Jerusalem and its sacred shrines.
Both sides blame the other for the current wave of violence, and both insist the other is capable of stopping it.
To protest Barak's peace efforts, right-wing Israelis gathered Sunday outside a Cabinet meeting and demanded that Barak not sign any deal with the Palestinians.
Meanwhile, there was speculation that former hard-line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would challenge Barak in the early elections. Opinion polls show Netanyahu's popularity is strong more than a year after he lost his re-election bid to Barak.
Two Palestinians killed in Mideast violence
Knesset, The Israeli Parliament
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