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5-month-old baby injured in Mideast clash

Diplomats are pushing to maintain a cease-fire after months of violence
Diplomats are pushing to maintain a cease-fire after months of violence  

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- A 5-month-old Israeli baby is in very serious condition after being hit by a rock following a new outbreak of violence in the Middle East late Tuesday.

According to the Israeli military, the baby was hit when Palestinians pelted a car with rocks that was traveling north of Ramallah near the Jewish settlement of Shilo Junction in the West Bank.

Jewish settlers burned several Palestinian houses in response Wednesday in an Arab village near Shilo Junction, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman said.

The Israeli army stepped in between settlers and Palestinians. They arrested one Israeli and detained two others. Two Palestinians were injured.

A doctor at Jerusalem's Hadassah hospital said the 5-month-old baby boy "was struck in the head and arrived in critical condition."

At least 13 Palestinians were wounded earlier in clashes with Israeli soldiers, and several gunfire incidents were reported by the military.

CNN's David Ensor reports on Bush's desire for CIA Director Frank Tenet to become involved in Mideast (June 5)

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Meanwhile, Israel's prime minister repeated harsh comments on Wednesday about Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

In an interview on NTV, a Russian television channel, Ariel Sharon said Arafat is "a murderer. He's a pathological liar." The interview was later rebroadcast on Israel's Channel Two.

Sharon went on to complain that Arafat was welcomed around the world "with a red carpet," when instead of acting like a head of state, "he behaves as the head of terrorists and murderers."

The head of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Ahmed Qorei, said Sharon's remarks are "not helpful at all" in trying to end the hostilities and said, "I invite the Israel, the international community, the world to listen carefully, to remember carefully who is the murderer."

Sharon declared a unilateral cease-fire on May 22. On Sunday, Arafat said he would suspend hostilities against targets in Israel.

Diplomats are now attempting to bring both sides to a formal agreement on a cessation of hostilities.

Israel has said it will ease restrictions on Palestinian territories due to a decline in the number of attacks in recent days.

Israel said the decision was made because there had been a "significant reduction in the number of attacks" on its citizens.

Borders would be reopened to allow Palestinians to return home from Egypt and Jordan, the Israeli Defense Ministry said. Goods would also be allowed in and out of the territories.

The restrictions were imposed after a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up outside a Tel Aviv disco Friday, killing himself and 20 other people, most of them teen-agers.

Confusion surrounds the subsequent cease-fire agreement on the Palestinian side, with the military wing of militant Islamic group Hamas and its political leaders differing on their position regarding the cease-fire.

Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahhar rejected an earlier announcement by the military wing that the cease-fire would be respected.

The military wing had issued a joint statement with Arafat's Fatah group Monday saying the cease-fire would be respected.

In a bid to make the cease-fire work, the U.S. has sent its CIA director to the Mideast.

CIA Director George Tenet was due in Amman, Jordan, where he was to consult with Ambassador William Burns, the envoy spearheading U.S. efforts in the region.

Tenet will travel to Israel in an attempt to meet with Palestinian and Israeli security officials, attempting to shore up the fragile cease-fire between the two sides.

Colonel Jibril Rajoub, the director of Palestinian security in the West Bank, has said he will meet with Israeli officials if Tenet is there to mediate.

Mohammad Dahlan, head of the Palestinian Preventative Security Service in Gaza, has not attended a security meeting since Israel troops fired on his vehicle following a meeting in April.

Renewed security cooperation is seen by the U.S. as a key to keeping the lid on the violence. The U.S. has been trying to get the two sides to agree to a timetable for implementing the recommendations of the Mitchell report which calls for a cooling off period leading to the resumption of peace talks.



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