Mitchell committee's report, presented to Palestinians, Israelis
Palestine-Israel, Politics, 5/5/2001
An international commission investigating the Israeli-Palestinian violence has called for a halt to all Israeli settlement building on occupied land, according to leaked details of its findings.
The commission, headed by the former American senator George Mitchell, has presented its findings to Palestinians and Israelis on Friday.
The draft report is understood to warn that it will be hard to stop the violence unless all settlement building in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is frozen.
Hundreds of Palestinians have died in seven months of violence Israeli sources say the document also criticises the Palestinians.
According to the leaked details, it speaks of a worrying lack of control over Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's security forces and other armed Palestinian elements.
Israel and the Palestinians have been given two weeks to examine the report, during which they have been asked not to make any public comment.
But as they absorb the details, violence continues on the West Bank.
Israeli soldiers shot dead an Islamic Jihad militant near the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Saturday, according to witnesses.
They said Israeli special forces hit Ahmed Khalil Issa Ismail, 35, with more than 20 bullets in an early morning attack in the village of Ertass, close to Bethlehem.
The Israel army said it had "no record" of an operation or disturbances in the area.
Islamic Jihad activists have been behind attacks in the past that have killed scores of Israelis.
The Mitchell Commission reportedly does not blame either side for starting the fighting which has raged for some seven months.
The Palestinians say the violence was triggered by Ariel Sharon's controversial visit to holy sites in Jerusalem when he was still the Israeli opposition leader.
Mr. Sharon - who became prime minister in February - has gone so far as to describe the Mitchell Commission report as an "historic mistake". He says no one has the right to put Israel on trial.
His stated policy is that there will be no halt to settlement expansion unless it is part of a comprehensive peace deal.
The commission was set up at an Arab-Israeli summit last October, but it has been dogged by difficulties ever since.
Its other recommendations are believed to include an end to the use by Israeli forces of rubber-coated metal bullets against unarmed Palestinian demonstrators.
Israel may however take comfort from the commission's apparent failure to back Palestinian calls for an international force to be deployed.
At least 500 people have died since Palestinians began a widespread uprising against Israeli occupation in September, including about 420 Palestinians and 75 Israelis Jews.
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