J E R U S A L E M, Oct. 13 - The White House is making plans for President
Clinton to leave for Egypt as early as Monday in anticipation of a Mideast
A White House official told ABCNEWS today the United States hopes to
get Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
to agree to attend the summit aimed at bringing a pause to the escalating
violence in the region.
Administration officials say Arab leaders are pressuring Arafat to
agree to a summit, but the Palestianian leader was refusing to attend
until Israel agrees to stop firing at Palestinian demonstrators at
flashpoints in the West Bank and Gaza.
Clinton, however, has been pushing for a summit with no conditions.
Administration officials say that even if a summit eventually
materializes, some time might be needed before the Palestinian and Israeli
leaders can meet face to face.
The travel plans come after 15 days of violence that have seemingly
destroyed the Middle East peace process and had world leaders scrambling
to cobble together hope for a reconciliation between the Palestinians and
As a key broker in the peace process, the United States had earlier pulled
back from requiring preconditions to holding a Middle East summit,
apparently dropping its insistence that the Israelis and Palestinians
first commit to ending the ongoing clashes.
"We are not setting any conditions to a meeting," White House
spokesman Jake Siewert told reporters today.
"We continue to expect that it's important that both sides renounce
violence and recognize that differences are best resolved at the
negotiating table and not in the streets," he said. "But we would like to
get people to a point where we could have clear lines of dialogue between
the parties directly."
The announcement came after a "day of rage" ended with one
Palestinian shot dead in the West Bank city of Hebron, bringing the death
toll in 15 straight days of violence to more than 98, most them
Palestinians and Israeli Arabs.
The "day of rage" was called by the Islamic militant group Hamas,
after a day of escalated violence on Thursday. The violence began when
Palestinian youths in the West Bank town of Ramallah seized four Israeli
soldiers, lynched two of them and tossed at least one body out of the
second floor window of a Palestinian police station.
The lynching was followed by retaliatory airstrikes by Israel at
Palestinian targets in the West Bank and Gaza.
President Clinton held a National Security Council meeting late today
to discuss the crisis in the Middle East.
The president canceled a political trip today to Missouri and
Arkansas, but was scheduled to go to Denver and Seattle on Saturday to
raise money for Democrats.
In a day of hectic telephone diplomacy, Clinton spoke three times to Saudi
Crown Prince Abdullah. He also spoke to Morocco's King Mohammed, Annan,
Barak and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in an effort to seek a
solution to the crisis.
Israeli helicopters fired on the West Bank city of Ramallah on
Thursday after a Palestinian mob killed two Israeli soldiers.
(ABCNEWS.com/ Magellan Geographix)
Diplomatic sources said Arafat was insisting that Barak must pull back
heavy armor from the West Bank and open the Palestinian territories before
he would agree to attend the summit in Egypt with the Israeli prime
minister, Clinton, Annan and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
The peace efforts have been under way ever since the latest bout of
violence began the day after Israeli right-wing politician Ariel Sharon's
controversial visit Sept. 28 to a key Jerusalem holy site known to Jews as
the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.
Clinton has been especially committed to bringing peace in the Middle
East, but following Thursday's violent showdown, experts are seriously
questioning if he will ever succeed.
"If President Clinton can pull a rabbit out of the hat, maybe,"
former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger said on ABCNEWS'
Nightline. "But given the atmosphere in Israel now, I don't see how you
can bring Palestinians or Israelis to the table. With the best will in the
world, I don't see how the president can do it. He is, let's face it,
about to become a lame duck in a month."
'A Day of Rage'
In Ramallah, a brief lull in the violence after Thursday's bloody scenes
was shattered today by an exchange of gunfire between Israeli forces and
Thousands of Palestinians, some chanting "Bomb Tel Aviv," took to the
streets of other West Bank towns as well.
As they had on Fridays over the past two consecutive weeks, clashes
erupted after Muslim prayers in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Israeli police kept hundreds of young Palestinians away from the
al-Aqsa mosque in Arab east Jerusalem, citing security concerns. Only
those older than 45 and women were allowed in.
Elsewhere in east Jerusalem, a group of around 100 Palestinians
confronted heavily armed Israeli riot police. Some of the Palestinians
were beaten with truncheons and two were carried away on stretchers.
Clashes also erupted during demonstrations in the divided city of
Hebron, Jenin, Bethlehem and the West Bank village of Hizme, where
soldiers fired rubber-coated bullets at stone throwers who blocked a main
road, witnesses said.
'Death Kiss to Peace Process'
Meanwhile, a politically weak Barak had been intensifying efforts to
convene a "national emergency government," asking Sharon, a leading
opponent of peace deals, to join him.
Barak held talks late Thursday with Sharon and other leaders of
factions in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, and the prime minister
invited Sharon's Likud party to join an emergency coalition. Sharon has
rebuffed Barak in the past, but the prime minister's office said the two
men would continue to talk through the weekend.
For the Palestinians, Sharon's inclusion in the government would
likely be seen as another indication that Barak was rapidly changing
directions on peacemaking. Saeb Erekat, senior Palestinian negotiator, has
called Sharon "the death kiss to the peace process."
"Ariel Sharon is a deserving, serious man and definitely a very
important partner for a national emergency government and obviously in
such a government he could be influential," Barak told a news conference
after a day of Cabinet meetings.
ABCNEWS' Andrew Morse and Gillian Findlay in Jerusalem, Rebecca Cooper at
the State Department, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, Josh Gerstein at the
White House, Bassem Barhoum in Ramallah and The Associated Press and
Reuters contributed to this report.
'I Just Killed Your Husband'
JERUSALEM, Oct. 13 - News on the Internet alerted Hani Avrahami to
the brutal killing of two Israeli soldiers and sent her rushing to
call her husband, a reserve soldier. His cellular phone rang and
rang until a strange voice answered.
"I just killed your husband," the gruff voice said.
Israeli media reports of the last, desperate phone calls of the
two widows to their husbands gripped Israelis today. Many were
horrified by the television footage of Palestinians cheering as one
of the soldier's bodies was thrown out a second-story window and
pummeled by the furious Palestinian crowd.
Yossi Avrahami, a 38-year-old toy salesman and a father of
three, was stabbed and beaten to death with another soldier in his
reserve unit after they took a wrong turn Thursday and ended up in
the middle of a funeral in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
A Palestinian mob, angry over two weeks of fighting with
Israelis that has left more than 90 people dead, attacked them after
they were taken to a police station.
The second soldier killed, Vadim Norjitz, was a Russian
immigrant who married his wife, Irina, only a week earlier.
Irina "called the cellular phone number a few times and no one
answered and in the afternoon [the military] called to say he hadn't
reached the point," Anna Norjitz said of her sister-in-law's efforts
to reach her husband. "And then the police came and she understood
Vadim was dead."
Irina Norjitz is three months pregnant, relatives told the
Norjitz's father asked to turn on the television Thursday night
as relatives gathered in his home. But the family wouldn't let him
watch, the daily reported.
Norjitz was buried today and Avrahami was to be buried Sunday,
the army said.
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