13 October 2000 Edition

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Israelis move deadline as Palestine suffers

On Tuesday, 10 October, the Israeli government stepped back from its threat to unilaterally declare the Middle East peace process dead when an emergency cabinet meeting decided to extend a deadline ultimatum demanding that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat end demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Violent confrontation broke out in Palestine at the end of September, after the leader of Israel's right-wing Likud Party, Ariel Sharon, made a controversial visit to the holy site Jews call the Temple Mount, a site also revered by Muslims, which they call the Noble Sanctuary or the Haram al-Sharif. Palestinian demonstrations against this inflammatory visit were met with the far superior firepower of the Israeli Defence Forces, firing live rounds against unarmed demonstrators.

Nearly a hundred people have been killed to date, almost all Arabs. The Security Council of the United Nations has condemned the excessive use of violence against Palestinians by Israeli forces.

UN Secretary-General Koffi Annan, who visited the Palestinian and Israel leaders, says he is ``optimistic'' about an end to the violence. US President Bill Clinton is keen to sponsor a new summit to discuss the state of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process, after negotiations in Paris chaired by the US secretary of State, Madeleine Albright and French Prime Minister, Jacques Chirac, fell through at the beginning of the month.

Joan O'Connor, head of Sinn Féin's International Department, has expressed the party's extreme concern at the deteriorating situation. She stressed the need for dialogue to achieve conflict resolution, adding that the success of any such dialogue would be dependent on a full UN-sponsored international inquiry into recent events.

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