Violence across the Palestinian territories raged on Tuesday despite Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s renewed ultimatum.
Confrontations escalated as a nine-year-old boy became the latest victim of Israeli firepower in Gaza Strip.
Doctors at a Gaza hospital declared nine-year-old Sami Abu Jazar clinically dead, after he was shot in the head by troops who fired on Palestinian youths during clashes in the south of the Gaza Strip.
The hospital said earlier that had been hit in the head by a live round during the clashes at Rafah.
An AFP photographer who witnessed the clashes said the boy was standing at a distance and took no part in the stone-throwing against Israeli soldiers. The boy had been wearing his school uniform.
Another 14 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli troops who fired rubber-coated bullets and live rounds, giving added impetus to desperate shuttle diplomacy by UN chief, Kofi Annan, and Russia's Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov.
Both met Arafat early Tuesday, as a low-level street war with Israeli troops appeared to take a more ominous turn in the West Bank city of Nablus, where some 200 armed and masked men gathered to launch a militia force.
In the West Bank city of Bethlehem, seven Palestinians were wounded after around 500 people demonstrated near an Israeli checkpoint at the northern entrance to the city.
Another Palestinian was hurt in street clashes with troops in Kfar Daroum, in the south of the Gaza Strip.
As Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat dismissed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's gesture as "another warning, after another warning, after another warning," members of his Fatah group ratcheted up the tension in Nablus.
Around 200 armed and masked members demonstrated in the city center, some reportedly firing shots in the air.
A masked man read out a statement saying Fatah "has decided to form a militia in this critical situation in order to defend the Palestinian people whose blood is being spilled without any protection or objection from the rest of the world."
An Israeli military communique released in Tel Aviv noted the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was relatively calm at dawn Tuesday, but within hours that was to change when Jewish settlers attacked Arab houses in the West Bank village of Yatma near Nablus.
Witnesses told AFP that the settlers fired shots at several houses in the village. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
The West Bank has been at the center of a wave of violence over the last 13 days in which nearly 100 people have been killed in clashes pitting Palestinians and Israeli Arabs against the Israeli army and Jewish settlers.
More than 2,000 people have been injured in the violence, sparked by the visit of Israel's right-wing opposition leader Ariel Sharon to Jerusalem's disputed Al-Aqsa mosque compound on September 28.
Barak said Tuesday that Israel would give the Palestinians "three or four days" more to end the violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, following a marathon emergency cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv.
"We have bowed to the requests of many world leaders and we have agreed to extend the delay by three or four days," Barak said in an interview on public radio, referring to a two-day ultimatum which expired late Monday.
"If the violence does not end, it will mean that the Palestinian Authority and Yasser Arafat want to abandon the process for a political settlement." – GAZA CITY (AFP)
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