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Rula Amin: Mideast leaders face off over holy ground
CNN Correspondent Rula Amin is in Jerusalem, where she is reporting on street clashes between Israelis and Palestinians and the behind-the-scenes political developments as pressure grows for the two sides to reach some kind of agreement.
Q: What sparked the latest major incident, a gun battle between Israeli forces and Palestinians near the West Bank town of Nablus Monday night through Tuesday morning?
AMIN: We don't really know why it happened. There are disputed versions of the story. There have been shooting incidents all along. This one was just fiercer -- it went on for a long time and there was a heavy exchange of fire.
Q: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is on shaky political ground, facing a re-election battle in February. How important is it for him to reach some kind of agreement with the Palestinians quickly?
AMIN: Most analysts here say his political career is dependent on getting an agreement with the Palestinians. When he came to office it was on a mandate that he was going to be able to get an agreement and bring peace to Israel. So far he hasn't been able to do that.
Q: The major political shifts appear to make this a pivotal moment for the Mideast conflict.
AMIN: Both the Palestinians and the Israelis say that this is a very crucial time. There are two looming deadlines: Clinton leaving office in less than a month and then the Israeli elections coming up in February. The issues at stake are all the core issues of the conflict. The concessions needed for an agreement to be reached are painful.
Q: Clinton has set Wednesday as a deadline for the two sides to decide whether his proposals are an acceptable basis to continue the talks. Is it likely the deadline will be met?
AMIN: We're hearing from different sources that they might ask for an extension. We're hearing from Palestinians that some of the U.S. proposals were unclear and ambiguous so they might have an extension so that some clarifications can be worked out.
Israelis, Palestinians consider U.S. proposal
Israel Defense Forces (in Hebrew)
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