Barak courts Sharon’s support

Associated Press

JERUSALEM — With the peace process on ice, embattled Prime Minister Ehud Barak attempted Monday to cobble together a coalition government that would include hard-liners and further diminish prospects for a peace treaty with the Palestinians.

Street clashes persisted Monday, and Israeli security forces clamped down on Palestinian areas, closing the airport in the Gaza Strip and sealing off a West Bank town that has been the source of shooting on Gilo, a Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Barak, who announced an indefinite "timeout" from the disintegrating peace process on Sunday, turned his focus to salvaging his shrunken coalition before parliament returns from a three-month recess on Sunday.

To keep his government from collapse and avoid early elections, Barak was wooing the leader of the right-wing opposition, Ariel Sharon — the man Palestinians blame for provoking the current spasm of violence. Barak and his negotiators met Sharon and planned additional talks Ttoday.

Meanwhile, the death count grew. Two Palestinian teen-agers died Monday from head wounds suffered in earlier clashes in the West Bank town of Nablus, and a Hebron man died during a firefight on Monday night.

The deaths on the 26th day of fighting brought the overall toll to 124, all but eight of them Arabs. The clashes erupted after Sharon made a controversial Sept. 28 visit to the most contested religious shrine in Jerusalem, sacred to both Jews and Muslims.

In the hills surrounding Hebron, residents said the Israeli army used tank shells against areas where gunmen had fired on the Jewish enclave in the city. The army denied using tanks in Hebron.

The regular use of Israeli tank fire would mark a serious escalation in the fighting, which until now has mostly been limited to gunfire exchanges.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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