Israeli troops Sunday shot dead two Palestinians during fierce gun-battles in the divided West Bank city of Hebron. The latest killings have cast doubts on the prospects for talks to end nearly a year of bloodshed.
Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians suspected of preparing to shoot from a hillside neighborhood in Hebron that overlooks a Jewish enclave in the city.
Both Palestinian gunmen were reported to be members of an armed wing of the Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
The West Bank city of Hebron, where some 400 Jewish settlers live among more than 100,000 Palestinians, is a frequent flashpoint of violence.
The shootings in Hebron came after a young Palestinian woman and a senior Palestinian intelligence officer were killed in separate and unexplained car bomb explosions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The latest killings come amid frantic diplomatic efforts to arrange talks in Europe later this week between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
It is hoped that such a meeting will help secure a new cease-fire agreement to halt the clashes that began nearly one year ago.
Egypt has been heavily involved in preparations for the talks.
Last Friday, Osama Al-Baz, senior political advisor to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak flew to Israel to discuss plans for the meeting, tentatively scheduled for Como, Italy, later this week.
Both Mr. Arafat and Mr. Peres are due to take part in an international conference there with European leaders to discuss world economic issues.
On the sidelines of the forum, Mr. Peres intends to ask Mr. Arafat to help stop the violence in return for Israel agreeing to gradually lift its siege against the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which has severely damaged the Palestinian economy.