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Fresh Mideast fighting after end of Washington talks
JERUSALEM -- An Israeli army frontier post has been targeted by mortar bombs fired from Lebanon.
Israeli forces returned artillery fire in the disputed Shebaa Farms area on Wednesday, an Israeli defense spokesman said. He described the attack as "a severe incident."
It came hours after a second round of talks between U.S. President Bill Clinton and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat ended without agreement on Washington's proposals to break the peace process deadlock.
Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas are fighting to oust Israeli troops from Shebaa Farms, at the foot of the Golan Heights which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.
But it is not clear who fired the latest bombs.
Arafat left the White House late on Tuesday without agreeing a deal but with a renewed commitment to stop violence in the West Bank and Gaza.
Following the hour-long meeting, White House officials said they planned to get in touch with Arafat's delegation to continue exploring peace talks.
Arafat plans to leave Washington on Wednesday to see Arab leaders in Cairo, Egypt.
But the chances of securing a lasting peace deal with Israel before Clinton's term ends on January 20 appear slim, with Arafat signaling that he is not ready to resume negotiations with Israel under the framework of U.S. proposals.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who needs to win a vote on February 6 to keep office, told Israeli radio on Tuesday it was "unlikely" any agreement could be reached before Clinton stepped down.
Barak also said an agreement before the election was "not probable". He has accused Arafat of wasting time by dragging his feet.
Clinton and Arafat's Tuesday night meeting followed about two hours of talks earlier in the afternoon.
Areas of conflict
Clinton's proposals were not made public. But reports indicated that they envisioned an independent Palestinian state covering 95 percent of the West Bank and all of Gaza.
It is also believed the proposals included Palestinian control over Haram al-Sharif, a Muslim holy spot in east Jerusalem, known to and revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.
In exchange, the Palestinians were to drop their demand for a right of return for Palestinian refugees -- and their descendants -- who fled or were driven out of Israel when it was founded in 1948.
Initially, the Israeli government indicated it was prepared, with reservations, to negotiate on the basis of Clinton's proposals, but the Palestinians declared they needed more details.
In the days that followed, Barak said he would never sign an agreement that handed over sovereignty of the Temple Mount.
The Palestinians followed with a declaration that they would never give up the refugees' right of return to Israel, a point the Israelis said was non-negotiable.
With each side blaming the other for the continuation of violence, both Barak and Arafat face tremendous pressure from their constituencies to make no further concessions.
So far, 328 Palestinians have been killed since the latest round of violence began on September 28, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society.
Forty-five Israeli Jews have been killed since that time, along with 13 Israeli Arabs, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
David Horowitz, editor of the Israeli news magazine The Jerusalem Report, told CNN that Palestinian reservations about Clinton's proposals were "so profound and so central as to effectively render those proposals unworkable.
"The Israeli feeling is that there's really no mileage left in this diplomatic effort, and that (there is) a very bleak future to look forward to," he said.
Ghassan Al-Khatib, a Palestinian political analyst and publisher of the Palestine Report, said the U.S. proposals failed to address crucial points for the Palestinians.
"Some of it has to do with Palestinian refugees because the American ideas avoided explaining what is going to be the future of those refugees and they presented their ideas in very general terms," he said.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Clinton-Arafat talks end without agreement
Palestinian National Authority
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