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Few Signs of Peace in Mideast As Parties Gather in Madrid

While Arab and Israeli delegates were being urged to negotiate an end to their conflict in Madrid, few signs of peace were evident in and around the land that is the source of their dispute.

Israelis mourned their latest fatalities — three soldiers killed by a land mine in southern Lebanon on Tuesday and two civilians gunned down in a bus ambush Monday in the West Bank.

Calls for revenge filled the streets.

Israel Defense Force soldiers shot dead a 19-year-old Palestinian during an anti-Israel demonstration in the West Bank on Wednesday while Palestinians also battled each other.

More than 50 were injured in factional strife between supporters of the peace process and advocates of continued armed struggle. Four of the injuries were stab wounds.

Israel’s ministerial defense committee met to discuss the worsening situation on the Lebanese border. Foreign Minister David Levy presided, in the absence of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who is heading the Israeli delegation in Madrid.

Levy, a deputy prime minister, was not in the best of moods. He was deeply hurt when Shamir announced he would lead the Israeli peace team to Madrid, and decided to stay home.

Defense Minister Moshe Arens blamed Syria directly for the latest attacks on the Israel Defense Force in southern Lebanon. His remarks only added to the tension between the two bitter neighbors.

Likud Knesset member Yehoshua Saguy, accused the Syrians of hypocrisy for going to the peace conference while abetting murderous attacks on Israel.

HAMAS STRIKE IN TERRITORIES

Arens told the Knesset later that it was important to tackle the peace process without illusions, yet with the will to make a break-through. But he did not say how Israel should respond to the latest violence.

Knesset member Hanan Porat of the National Religious Party, who advocates maximum Jewish settlement in the administered territories, urged militancy as a solution.

He demanded that the IDF find “new ways” to curb the intifada. He called on the Israeli delegates in Madrid to boycott prominent Palestinians such as Hanan Ashrawi, whom he accused of encouraging terrorism.

Ashrawi is not a member of the official Palestinian delegation but speaks for the six-member advisory group accompanying it to Spain.

Knesset member Binyamin Ben-Eliezer of the opposition Labor Party warned of the growing escalation in southern Lebanon. He noted that the Syrian-backed Lebanese regular army has done nothing to curb the anti-Israel raids of Shi’ite fundamentalists.

The Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, which has pledged violence to derail the peace talks, called yet another general strike in the administered territories. It was widely observed, more out of fear of Hamas terror tactics than support for the extremists’ cause.

In fact, pro-peace rallies were staged by Arabs in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood and the Shati refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, former intifada trouble spots.

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