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Coffins Displayed During Mideast Demonstration in New York

Bereaved Palestinian and Israeli family members joined in a demonstration across from United Nations headquarters in New York Tuesday. A display of more than 1,000 cardboard coffins was the focus of the group's plea for an end to Middle East violence.

The group called "Families Forum" came from Israel and the West Bank to the street outside U.N. headquarters.

Palestinians and Israelis gathered amidst the hundreds of replicas of coffins. Eight hundred were draped with the Palestinian flag, 250 were covered with the Israeli flag. The group said the numbers represent the ratio of Palestinian and Israeli dead, since the latest round of bloodshed began in September 2000. More than 1,400 people have been killed, in all.

The "Families Forum" demonstrators demanded world leaders take immediate action and get the two sides to the negotiating table.

A Palestinian, Ibrahim Bushnak, said he does not want any more families to know the suffering and despair he and the members of his group have experienced. Mr. Bushnak said, "If we Israelis and Palestinians, who have lost what is most precious can sit and talk, if we who have all the reason to be full of rage and hate can give up thoughts of revenge, then there is no reason our leaders cannot do the same."

Ayelet Shakhak, an Israeli, spoke of the loss of his daughter Batkhain who would have celebrated her 21st birthday this week. He said she wanted the violence to end and wrote poetry about it before her death. "Stop this killing," he said. "This was Batkhain's will. She wrote it in her poet's book. Stop this killing."

The coffins were first displayed in Tel Aviv and will next go on to Washington for a ceremony and another plea for peace.