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Continuing Violence Threatens Mideast Cease-Fire - 2001-09-20

Palestinian gunmen have killed an Israeli woman during an ambush in the West Bank, and Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian man in the Gaza Strip. The continuing violence is threatening to undermine a cease-fire.

Police say Palestinian gunmen fired at a car near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, killing an Israeli woman and seriously wounding her husband.

The couple's three children were riding in the backseat of the family car and witnessed the attack. The children were not hurt. The family lives in a Jewish settlement near Bethlehem.

In another incident, the Israeli military says Palestinians threw a grenade at an army post in the Gaza Strip. Soldiers opened fire and one Palestinian man was killed. Five soldiers were slightly wounded in the grenade attack.

The violence is threatening to derail a cease-fire, called earlier this week by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Israel responded by withdrawing tanks and troops from Palestinian-controlled territory and promising to halt military strikes.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says the continuing violence shows the Palestinian Authority "did not live up to its commitment."

U.S. officials have been urging both sides to work for calm in the region as America forms an anti-terror coalition after last week's attacks on the United States.

Continued fighting in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could make it more difficult to recruit Arab and Islamic states into such a coalition.

Dore Gold is a senior foreign policy advisor to the Israeli Prime Minister. "Well there is no question that Israel has made a priority of trying to address America's concerns with the needs of coalition building and for that reason it has taken risks for peace," he said. "But at the same time, when its civilians come under repeated attacks, Israel can not sit on its hands, it can not simply not respond."

Palestinian minister Yasser Abed Rabbo says Israel should lift its closure of the West Bank and Gaza to stabilize the situation. "We know that this cease-fire is fragile, especially the closure imposed by the Israelis on the Palestinian territories and the siege around every single city and village," he said. "It should be lifted in order, really, to achieve a stable cease-fire."

Previous truce agreements have failed to halt nearly a year of violence that has left more than 800 people, mostly Palestinians, dead.