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Israeli accuses Palestinians of using 'children as shields'
CNN Correspondents Jerrold Kessel, Fionnuala Sweeney, Kelly Wallace and Rula Amin contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An Israeli army commander accused Palestinians of using children as shields in a gun battle that broke out in Ramallah in the West Bank at sunset on Friday.
But Mustafa Barghouti, the head of Palestinian Medical Relief, accused the Israeli soldiers of shooting solely to kill protesters. "It is a total abuse of military power," he said.
Four Palestinians died in fighting Friday, one in the Ramallah skirmish, two in other clashes in the West Bank and a fourth in Gaza, bringing the death toll in four weeks of fighting to at least 145.
Barghouti put the number of Palestinians injured during the last four weeks at 5,000.
"Ninety-nine percent of the people who were killed, were killed because they were shot in the head or the upper part of the body," he said.
Col. Gal Hirsch, the Israeli commander who accused the Palestinian militias of using children, said peaceful demonstrators have nothing to fear from his forces.
"We won't hurt or touch any demonstration," he said. "But when it becomes a riot and when they use live ammunition against us, what other choice do we have?"
"We will kill anyone that will aim a rifle against us and we will kill anyone who will open fire against us," said Hirsch, who commands the Israeli army in the Ramallah area.
Continued days of rage
The militant Islamic group Hamas and other Palestinian organizations have been calling for days of rage to continue every Friday until they say they are rid of the Israeli army.
In Ramallah, demonstrators set fire to cars, burned tires and hurled stones at Israeli soldiers who responded with tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets.
Ambulances lined up to take away the wounded.
Clashes were also reported in Gaza and in Jerusalem itself.
There was a heavy Israeli security presence in East Jerusalem out of fear that Islamic Jihad would stage another suicide bombing like the one Thursday in Gaza that killed the suicide bomber and wounded an Israeli soldier.
Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for that incident, in which a Palestinian man set off explosives as he approached barricades near an Israeli military outpost.
Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, the Israeli Defense Force chief of staff, said conflicts with the Palestinians were likely to continue well into next year.
Israelis admit holding Palestinian
In another development Friday, Israeli security officials formally acknowledged they had taken into custody a Palestinian man the Israelis believe participated in the killing of two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah.
The suspect's family denied he was involved in the incident.
Israeli justice officials also said six Israeli policemen were suspended for allegedly beating the man. No details have been given about the man's capture.
The alleged beating took place when he was being transferred from a jail to an interrogation facility belonging to Shin Bet, the Israeli intelligence service.
The man is believed to be the one seen around the world in photographs as he held up his hands covered with blood.
On Oct. 18, CNN learned that at least eight Palestinians had been taken into custody on the West Bank by the Israeli security services and brought to Israel for trial.
The two soldiers were killed after a mob overran a police station in Ramallah Oct. 12.
Clinton 'frustrated' over violence
In Washington on Friday, U.S. President Bill Clinton said he was "frustrated" about new violence in the Middle East after what he called "three pretty good days." He said his administration was still in talks with both sides about possible meetings in Washington.
"In terms of who comes here when, that is still subject to discussion," he said when questioned by reporters in the Rose Garden. "We're talking to the Israelis, we're talking to the Palestinians, we're talking with others around the world."
Clinton said there would have to be a "much lower level of violence" before the two Mideast leaders could meet to resume peace negotiations.
Clinton said more needs to be done to reach out to younger Palestinians who may feel alienated and frustrated by the peace process, and to build a dialogue to "replace the bullets and the rocks."
When Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak spoke with Clinton on Friday, Clinton raised the possibility of a meeting in Washington, and urged Barak to implement the security arrangements he agreed to in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and to reduce tensions in the region.
Clinton made a similar proposal to both Barak and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat on Tuesday. Arafat has said he would go to Washington if Clinton issues a formal invitation.
Barak working to form government
Barak was hard at work on forming a government of national emergency. The Barak government has only 30 seats in the 120-member Knesset, which will come back into session Oct. 30 with a bill pending for early elections.
Barak cited the Israeli Knesset meeting as a factor in his being unable to commit to a meeting with Clinton. However, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that Israeli Acting Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami had asked to come to Washington and was expected to arrive midweek.
The Israeli prime minister needs to form a government with 61 seats or more in order to stave off attempts to bring down his government.
Barak has been in intense negotiations with the Likud party and its leader, Ariel Sharon, whose visit to the Temple Mount area of Jerusalem preceded the current round of violence.
Militant group claims responsibility for Gaza suicide bombing
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