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Originally published September 22, 2010 at 10:05 PM | Page modified September 23, 2010 at 2:01 PM

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Israeli, Palestinian negotiators seek way to extend talks as pressure builds

With Israel's construction freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank scheduled to end this weekend, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were seeking an elusive formula Wednesday to keep new peace talks going while both sides warned that if the talks ended, violence could erupt.

The New York Times

U.N. says Israel's raidon Gaza flotilla 'unlawful'

GENEVA — A report by three U.N.-appointed human- rights experts Wednesday said Israeli forces violated international law when they raided a Gaza-bound aid flotilla killing nine activists this year.

The U.N. Human Rights Council's fact-finding mission concluded that Israel's naval blockade of the Palestinian territory was unlawful because of the humanitarian crisis there, and described the military raid on the flotilla as brutal and disproportionate.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry responded late Wednesday by saying the Human Rights Council, which commissioned the report, had a "biased, politicized and extremist approach."

The Islamic militant group Hamas that controls Gaza, meanwhile, praised the report and called for those involved in the raid to be punished.

Examining the circumstances of the raid, the panel concluded that a humanitarian crisis existed in Gaza on the day of the incident in Gaza and "for this reason alone the blockade is unlawful and cannot be sustained in law."

Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza after Hamas militants violently seized control of the coastal territory from the moderate Palestinian Fatah party in 2007. Israel allows humanitarian aid and goods into Gaza via land crossings after inspection for weapons.

The report described the Israeli raid May 31, in which eight Turkish activists and one Turkish American aboard the Mavi Marmara were shot and killed, as "clearly unlawful."

Israel says its troops opened fire after coming under attack by activists wielding clubs, axes and metal rods. Soldiers rappelled on to the deck armed with nonlethal paintball guns as their primary weapons. They said they resorted to using their handguns only after they were attacked.

The activists said they were defending their ship after it was attacked by Israeli soldiers in international waters.

— The Associated Press

JERUSALEM — With Israel's construction freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank scheduled to end this weekend, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were seeking an elusive formula Wednesday to keep new peace talks going while both sides warned that if the talks ended, violence could erupt.

As if to illustrate that warning, Palestinians clashed with Israeli security forces in and around the Old City of Jerusalem after an Israeli security guard fatally shot a Palestinian resident of Silwan, an east Jerusalem neighborhood where a few hundred Jewish settlers live among tens of thousands of Palestinians.

The guard told police he opened fire in self-defense after being ambushed by stone-throwers early Wednesday. But Palestinians said there were signs the dead man, Samer Sirhan, 32, had been chased by the guard, and Palestinian spokesmen accused the Israeli settlers of carrying out provocations to divert international attention from the issue of Israeli settlement construction.

Sirhan, a father of five, was a member of Fatah, the mainstream Palestinian party engaged in the peace talks with Israel.

After Sirhan's death, crowds of Palestinians rampaged in east Jerusalem. At one point, Israeli riot police stormed the hilltop compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, the most explosive site in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the place where the last Palestinian uprising began almost 10 years ago.

Police said nine Israelis were hurt, including one who was stabbed. Three vehicles, including a police car, were torched, and two cars were overturned. The guard who opened fire was questioned and later released.

Material from The Washington Post is included in this report.

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