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Oct. 24 - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is moving toward a tougher
political stance that threatens to widen the rift with Palestinians even
as violence in and around the West Bank continues.

Barak is expected to resume talks today with right-wing Likud party
leader Ariel Sharon aimed at having him form an emergency national
government to address the current conflict.
The Israeli leader failed to agree on terms for a unity government
Monday with Likud, the main opposition party. A Likud party official said
the party wanted Barak's agreement to give it "real influence" in the
"diplomatic process" - shorthand for future peace moves with the
Palestinians.
Barak, who is also meeting with other political factions, hopes to
form a government coalition before parliament returns from a three-month
recess Sunday.
Sharon reportedly demanded measures to ensure his equal say in
whether the peace process is renewed.
Palestinians and Israeli liberals have warned that Sharon's inclusion
in the government would crush the peace process.
Palestinians revile Sharon, who believes that Israel should cling to
land captured in the 1967 Mideast war rather than trade it for a peace
agreement with the Palestinians.
The talks come as violence that has claimed at least 128 lives - most
of them Palestinians - in almost four weeks of fighting showed no signs of
abating.
Despite cold, rainy weather, street clashes carried on overnight and
into the day on the West Bank. A 55-year-old Palestinian man was killed at
his house during the night when he was hit in the head by gunfire in
Hebron.
After daybreak, Palestinian rock throwers confronted Israeli troops
in Hebron. In Nablus, Palestinians shot at Israeli soldiers, who returned
fire.

As the clashes in Israel and the occupied territories continued,
Palestinian businesses and schools closed today for a holiday marking the
ascension of the Muslim prophet Mohammed to heaven from Jerusalem.
With Palestinian businesses closed and youths out of school, Israeli
forces said they were expecting renewed protests.
The military called on the Palestinians "not to send schoolchildren
to violent confrontations with the security forces."
The Palestinians, meanwhile, accuse the Israelis of using excessive
force in the daily confrontations.
Israeli tanks fired rounds into the Palestinian Christian village of
Beit Jala last night after shots were fired from there at Jewish homes in
the adjacent Gilo settlement on the borders of Jerusalem.
The firing on Gilo brought a strong condemnation from an aide to
Barak today. "We will not agree to anyone opening fire on a neighborhood
in East Jerusalem from any source or any place and I have no doubt that we
will be compelled to intensify our responses, not necessarily with
military means, but also with military means, if the firing does not
stop," security aide Danny Yatom said.
The Israelis, who have cordoned off Beit Jala, accuse the
Palestinians of trying to drag the Christian communities, around 20
percent of the Palestinian population, into the conflict, and thus to
mobilize Christian public opinion abroad.
Four Palestinians were injured in the Israeli fire. It was the second
night of clashes on Jerusalem's periphery, sparked each time by bursts of
gunfire emanating from Beit Jalla.
The hilltop village of Beit Jala is considered strategically
important as it forms the missing link that Israel needs to join the
settlements which form a ring around Jerusalem to those further afield.
In Hebron, the clashes that claimed the life of a 55-year-old
Palestinian man also injured his four children. Two young boys died of
wounds received in earlier fighting. That means more funerals, more
demonstrations, and more violence.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization today announced its program of
protests for the rest of the week. This is seen as a first sign that
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat now wants to control the violence on the
streets. He used similar tactics to channel and control the violence
during the intifada, diplomatic observers say.
Today, the PLO decreed, there would be marches to protest Israeli
blockades of some areas.
On Wednesday and Thursday their focus will switch to areas near the
settlements where they plan to protect farmers in the fields harvesting
olives, one of the mainstays of the shattered Palestinian economy. Many
incidents of Palestinians being attacked by settlers while in the fields
have been reported. At least one farmer has been killed and Israel has
arrested several settlers.
On Friday there is expected to be the now-familiar demonstrations
after midday prayers.
Almost three weeks of closures in many occupied territories is
threatening the already fragile health of several hundred patients on the
Palestinian side who cannot reach Israeli hospitals where they are
undergoing kidney dialysis or a course of treatment for cancer.
Flights began again from Gaza airport this morning, flying some
patients out to the Gulf for treatment.

The agenda for future protests come as Barak continues to push for a
negotiation with the Likud party. The Israeli premier's talks with Sharon,
whom the Palestinians hold responsible for setting off the violence with
his controversial visit, on September 28, to a site in Jerusalem that is
sacred to both Muslims and Jews is not expected to ease the situation.
Monday's meeting, which was held a day after the Israeli leader
declared a time-out in peacemaking in the wake of a continuing wave of
violence, was met with chagrin by President Clinton and dovish members of
Barak's center-left government.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was outright contemptuous of the
time out.
He said the Palestinian people were "continuing the road to
Jerusalem," which they regard as the capital of a future state. "To
accept, or not to accept - let him go to hell," he said, without
mentioning Barak by name.

ABCNEWS.com's Sue Masterman in Vienna, The Associated Press and Reuters
contributed to this report.

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