Israel and the Palestinian territories were relatively quieter today after yesterday's murder of Israeli Defense Force reservists and rocket attacks overnight by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Security and tensions remain exceedingly high, with a few gunfights between Israeli and Palestinian forces reported and an Israeli blockade of Palestinian territories. Some leaders from both sides declared the peace process dead yesterday, each predictably blaming the other party. In addition, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has invited right-wing Israeli leader Ariel Sharon to join a national emergency government. Sharon is very poorly regarded by the Palestinians, not least for his visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound twelve days ago which sparked the current round of protests and violence. Sharon has not publicly responded to the offer, but should he accept, the Palestinians will certainly be provoked even further. Faced with the prospect of violence spiralling out of control and the destabilization of the entire region, reinforced by recent attacks on a US warship and the British Embassy in Aden, UN, US, and European diplomats have been working feverishly to arrange a summit, possibly this weekend, to end the violence and put the peace process back on track.


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