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Palestinian violence continues as region awaits return of Ross

JERUSALEM, April 13 (JTA) — Palestinian violence continued for a fourth consecutive week in the absence of any hopeful signs for resolving the ongoing crisis in the peace process. U.S. Special Middle East Coordinator Dennis Ross may come to the region this week in a bid to break the impasse in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, according to Israeli officials. But Palestinian officials said the United States would need to hold further consultations with Israel and the Palestinians before sending Ross to the region. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a senior Palestinian delegation last week held separate talks in Washington aimed at finding ways to salvage the peace process. Those meetings were inconclusive, however. Meanwhile, a Palestinian woman crossing into the West Bank from Jordan shot and wounded two Israeli security personnel and a Palestinian during a security check Sunday at the Allenby Crossing. Israeli security officials said the woman was a 26-year-old resident of the West Bank town of Kalkilya who was on a bus from Jordan. She opened fire during a routine check by Israeli security at the crossing, the officials said. Israeli forces, which maintain overall security responsibilities at the crossing, arrested the woman. In Hebron, which has witnessed some of the worst violence in recent weeks, seven people were wounded Sunday, including three Israeli children hit by rocks thrown at their kindergarten. Israeli troops clamped a curfew on the market in the center of the town. There have been nearly daily clashes in the West Bank since Israel began construction last month of a Jewish neighborhood at Har Homa in southeastern Jerusalem. The unrest, which has included three terrorist suicide bombings of Israeli targets, has led Israel to demand that the Palestinians crack down on violence and terror as a condition for continuing the political dialogue. For their part, the Palestinians have demanded a freeze on all Israeli construction activity in the territories and in Jerusalem as a precondition for restarting talks. “These are difficult times, but we are not losing our determination,” Netanyahu said at the funeral Sunday of Sharon Edri, an Israeli soldier who was kidnapped and murdered seven months ago by a Hamas cell from the Hebron area. “We are telling the murderers, `You will not break this nation.’ ” Edri’s whereabouts were unknown until last week, when members of the cell responsible for his murder — and the deaths of 10 other Israelis — revealed where he was buried after they were detained by Palestinian security forces. Netanyahu, who was in Europe at the time, thanked the Palestinians for the “specific assistance” they had given in the effort. But he reiterated his call on Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat to crack down on terrorist organizations and to restore full security cooperation with Israel. Netanyahu returned Sunday to Israel from Italy and Holland, where he held discussions about Europe’s desire to assume a greater involvement in the peace process. The Palestinians would welcome greater European participation, but Israeli officials are wary about what they view as Europe’s pro-Palestinian bias. Addressing that concern during his trip, Netanyahu urged European states to adopt a more “evenhanded” stance toward the region. That stance will be tested this week in Malta during a conference aimed at boosting ties between Mediterranean countries and the European Union. Netanyahu sought assurances from Italian and Dutch leaders that the conference does not become another forum to condemn Israel.