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Arafat's response to Barak's timeout: 'Go to hell'
GAZA CITY, Gaza (CNN) -- In reaction to continued clashes and the Arab summit's condemnation of Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said Israel would have to take a "timeout" from the peace process.
Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat said he "expected this" from Barak, and indicated he had no intention of giving up his quest for Palestinian statehood.
"Our people [are] continuing the road to Jerusalem, the capital of our independent Palestinian state," Arafat said. "To accept or not to accept it, let him go to hell."
The Palestinian leader made the comment in front of television cameras and in English after arriving in Gaza from this weekend's Arab League summit in Cairo, Egypt.
Barak announced the timeout earlier Sunday.
"We need to have a timeout whose goal is to reassess the peace process in light of the events of the last few weeks," Barak said in a written statement.
"Israel will continue to pursue peace and every path that leads to it, but one would have to be blind to security and political needs to continue as if nothing has changed," the prime minister said.
The statement did not say whether the timeout had formally begun or how long it would last.
Peace process 'in tatters'
Barak's announcement provoked strong comments from Palestinian Council Member Hanan Ashrawi.
"It's very clear that Mr. Barak's intentions all along have been to undermine the peace process, to evade it, to avoid it," Ashrawi told CNN. "Actually he left it in tatters, because what he's doing right now is really waging war against a captive Palestinian population.
"This really exposes Barak's real intentions when it comes to peacemaking, that either (Israelis) beat (the Palestinians) into submission in accepting what (Israelis) want, or (Israel) will suspend the peace process and ... pursue a policy which is entirely anti-peace," Ashrawi said.
In Cairo, Egypt, concluding a two-day summit, Arab League Secretary-General Esmat Abdel-Meguid said, "The Arab leaders express their condemnation for the Israeli escalation of their malpractices and provocative actions while the whole region was preparing and creating an atmosphere -- a favorable atmosphere -- for a fair and comprehensive peace."
Barak rejected the summit's "threatening language."
Four die in Sunday fighting
At least four Palestinians died in renewed unrest Sunday, including a 14-year-old Palestinian boy was shot and killed in Gaza during a clash with Israeli soldiers at the Erez crossing, Palestinian hospital doctors said.
In the West Bank town of Hebron, two Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers.
The four deaths sent the total death toll above 120 since clashes began September 28.
Most of those killed have been Palestinians or Israeli Arabs.
On Saturday, similar skirmishes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants in the West Bank and Gaza left four Palestinians dead and more than 100 injured.
Proposed 'war crimes tribunal'
The Arab summit's final declaration did not condemn Palestinian violence, but it did denounce Israel, calling for a United Nations-led "war crimes tribunal" to try Israelis who the communique said were responsible for the fighting.
The summit declaration did not call on Arab nations to sever ties with Israel, leaving that decision up to each Arab League nation.
An Israeli spokesman expressed disappointment that the summit failed to denounce the violence but called its failure to call for cutting Israeli-Arab ties a "victory of wisdom for the Arab world."
Ashrawi offered Palestinian reaction, telling CNN the summit's communique was "extremely diluted, watered down, as may have been euphemistically described as being moderate and rational."
She accused summit leaders of responding to influence from the United States and said many Palestinians would be disappointed, including Arafat.
The Sharon factor
Meanwhile, Barak has been holding talks with Ariel Sharon, leader of the Likud opposition party, in a bid to bolster his minority government.
Palestinians accuse Sharon of provoking the wave of violence on September 28 when he visited an east Jerusalem site holy to Muslims and Jews.
Palestinians said his visit "defiled" one of the holiest shrines in the Islamic world.
Sharon has denied responsibility for the violence, accusing Palestinians of using his visit to the shrine as an excuse to fight Israeli soldiers.
U.S. peacemaking efforts
U.S. President Bill Clinton continued his peacemaking efforts by calling Barak on Saturday night.
The phone call followed a similar discussion Clinton had Friday evening with Arafat.
The message conveyed to both leaders, according to a U.S. National Security Council spokesman: "They have to support the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement. They have to take the steps they agreed to take ... they have to stop the violence."
The U.S.-, Egyptian- and U.N.-brokered summit early last week in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, forged an Israeli-Palestinian truce agreement that never took hold.
Clinton, according to the official, also urged both sides to continue to work to get back to the negotiating table "sooner rather than later."
More Middle East killings as Arab nations confer on crisis
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