U.S. continues mediation, regrets death of three Palestinian women - NewsOn6.com - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - KOTV.com |

U.S. continues mediation, regrets death of three Palestinian women


JERUSALEM (AP) _ A 5-month-old Israeli baby died Monday, nearly a week after a stone smashed the windshield of the family car, while diplomats pressed ahead with efforts to curb violence and put peace talks back on track.

Yehuda Shoham never regained consciousness after being struck June 5 by a stone as his father drove the family to their West Bank home in Shilo settlement.

``The family was with him _ always they were with him,'' said Yael Bosem-Levy, a spokeswoman for Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem.

His injury had added to mounting frustration among settlers, who have criticized Israeli premier Ariel Sharon for not responding more strongly to Palestinian violence. Sharon visited the baby Sunday evening at the intensive care unit where his parents and friends were maintaining a prayer vigil.

As deaths continue _ three Palestinian women were killed late Saturday night by Israeli tank fire in the Gaza Strip _ diplomatic activity was slowly moving along.

Differences in the Israeli and Palestinian positions were wide enough to force the postponement Sunday of a three-way security meetings that was to be convened by CIA chief George Tenet. Instead, Tenet met separately with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Tenet was expected to get the sides together later Monday.

A shaky cease-fire is in place. But Israel insists on securing an end to all forms of Palestinian violence _ from stones to mortars to suicide bombs _ before following through on further steps in the report of a commission led by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell.

The Palestinians want security and political steps to proceed together. In particular, they want one confidence-building measure implemented in the first stage: a halt to Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Palestinian parliament speaker Ahmed Qureia said Monday the Palestinians stressed to the Americans that ``we are dealing with two parallel tracks that cannot be separated ... and, of course, for the Palestinians the main issue is the political one.''

The Palestinians, he said, also stressed that if an agreement comes, an international committee should observe it. Israel has opposed the idea of international monitors.

A senior Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Israelis had ``a few reservations'' about the American document Tenet presented at a three-way meeting Friday. Israel, the official said, wants to be sure any document clearly spells out that all forms of violence and incitement must stop, not just shooting.

Israeli officials said the Americans asked for the delay to Sunday's three-way meeting to permit them more time to study the responses.

Asked to comment on the postponement, U.S. Embassy spokesman Larry Schwartz would say only, ``We are continuing to work with both sides.''

West Bank security chief Jibril Rajoub said the Palestinians expressed reservations about the U.S. blueprint.

U.S. officials have not given details of Tenet's proposal. Palestinian Cabinet Minister Nabil Shaath has said it included security points in the Mitchell commission report. He wasn't specific, but that report calls for the arrest of Palestinian militants, an Israeli military pullback and security cooperation.

Qureia said one of the Palestinians' reservations is about the arresting of Palestinians wanted by Israel.

Further clouding the troubled atmosphere was the deaths of three Palestinians in Gaza who were apparently killed by an Israeli tank shell fired late Saturday.

The Israeli military said its forces were responding to Palestinian fire, but the military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, admitted that the tank crew might have miscalculated the distance and hit the women's tent by accident.

In more than eight months of fighting, 488 people have been killed on the Palestinian side and 109 on the Israeli side.

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