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Gaza, Tel Aviv explosions reportedly kill 2, injure at least 15

Blasts cast shadow on Clinton peace proposals


In this story:

Palestinians seek details

Summit canceled 'for the time being'

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Explosions in Tel Aviv and Gaza reportedly left at least two people dead and 15 injured on Thursday, further undermining a Mideast peace process already staggered by doubts and mistrust.

Emergency workers at the Sufa crossing checkpoint between Israel and Palestinian-controlled Gaza said that one person was killed and three injured, one seriously, in the explosion there. Israeli radio said at least two people were killed. The Israel Defense Forces said only that several of its soldiers were injured in the blast.

Earlier, a series of blasts in and around a Tel Aviv bus injured at least 13 people, one seriously, according to Israeli police.

The explosions underscored the cancellation hours earlier of a summit involving Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in Egypt, in which Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had planned to host the two Mideast leaders in a discussion of peace proposals presented by U.S. President Bill Clinton.

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Key points of U.S. peace proposals
 
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Three explosions went off in and around a bus in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv (December 28)

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In a White House news conference, U.S. President Bill Clinton says range of issues is narrowing (December 27)

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Chance

Mathew Chance describes the Tel Aviv blast scene

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Wedeman CNN's Ben Wedeman discusses reservations about U.S. peace proposals

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Witnesses in Tel Aviv reported heavy black smoke billowing from the bus after the explosions, which took place about midday on a main city street.

Police said the Tel Aviv blasts may have been caused by a pipe bomb, and said they were searching the area for more devices. Most of the injuries were reported to be burns.

Although there were no immediate claims of responsibility for Thursday's explosions, radical Islamic groups have taken responsibility for several other bus blasts in Israel, including an October explosion in Jerusalem that killed two people.

Mubarak met with Arafat in Cairo on Thursday while Israeli Prime Minister Barak remained in Israel, saying he would await the results of the Arafat-Mubarak meeting before deciding if he would travel to Egypt.

Palestinian leadership has asked for more clarification of Clinton's proposals, which reportedly call for compromises on several key issues -- including the final status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees seeking to return to homes in Israel -- in the half-century-old Mideast conflict.

Palestinians seek details

The White House received a letter from Arafat on Wednesday regarding the Clinton proposals, but U.S. officials said the response "is not an acceptance or a rejection."

"It's about details of maps, details of roads, about borders, details about refugees, about Jerusalem," Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat told CNN.

Erakat described the status of the peace process as "very very difficult," saying "these are the issues that make Palestinians breathe -- Jerusalem, settlement, refugees. The Israelis have said if the Palestinians will accept we will accept, which makes more pressure on us."

The proposals reportedly grant the Palestinians sovereignty over the Muslim holy site Haram al-Sharif -- called the Temple Mount by Jews -- while the Israelis would have sovereignty over the Western Wall, which is the sole remaining segment of the ancient Jewish Temple.

They also address the refugee issue, calling for the resettlement of thousands of Palestinians in Palestinian-controlled land rather than in Israel, although Israel would provide some compensation.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled their homes when Israel became an independent state in 1948, and again in 1967 after the Arab-Israeli war that ended with Israel's seizure of the West Bank and Gaza.

Summit canceled 'for the time being'

After two long meetings on Wednesday of the Israeli cabinet, or Knesset, ministers decided that Clinton's proposals for a peace accord were "an acceptable basis for negotiations," Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said.

Sneh said Israelis were concerned about access to holy sites in Jerusalem, security issues and Palestinian refugees, but he said he believed it is possible to work out those details.

"We still believe that there is a way to achieve quite soon an agreement, but it takes two to tango and the Palestinian side has to display a flexibility," he said.

Sneh said that a Barak-Arafat summit was called off "for the time being" but "is not officially canceled."

Meanwhile, U.S. officials watched Cairo closely, saying the Mubarak-Arafat meeting was crucial. The White House is looking for Mubarak -- a chief co-sponsor of the peace process and leader of moderate Arab nations -- to give Arafat a green light to keep negotiating.

If Arafat notifies the White House that he wants to pursue negotiations, the White House would interpret that as a sign Arafat has Arab support to make tough compromises.

CNN Cairo Bureau Chief Ben Wedeman and Correspondent Matthew Chance contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Mideast summit in Egypt called off
December 27, 2000
Clinton expects to hear from Arafat, Barak by Wednesday
December 26, 2000
Fighting, talks loom over Bethlehem December 25, 2000
December 25, 2000
Mideast peace at 'moment of truth'
December 24, 2000
Mideast talks inconclusive
December 23, 2000
Israeli, Palestinian negotiators take up difficult issues with Clinton
December 23, 2000
Mike Hanna: Mideast officials on each side under pressure at home
December 22, 2000
Mideast negotiators 'reducing the differences'
December 22, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Israel Defense Forces (in Hebrew)
Israeli Prime Minister's Office
Palestinian Authority President
The White House

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