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Tuesday, 10 October, 2000, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Middle East crisis: Your questions answered.

Diplomatic efforts are continuing in the Middle East, to try to reduce the level of tension between Israelis and Palestinians.

Two weeks of confrontation on the streets of the West Bank and Gaza have left more than 90 dead -the majority of them Palestinians- and hundreds injured.

Both sides blame each other for the violence that has left the peace process on the brink of collapse.

To watch coverage of the forum, select the link below:


Transcript hightlights:

John, Spain:
Do you get a feeling that the situation is getting more tense, or less?

Nick Childs:
Certainly it's very tense - as the death toll has risen, the tension have also risen. From the leaders on both sides all we are getting from them is acrimonious messages which isn't helping the situation.

Jefferson Blue, Antwerp, Belgium:
Is it an option for the Israelis to seal off the occupied territories as they have done in the past?

Nick Childs:
It's certainly an option. We've already seen extended closure over the Yom Kippur holiday weekend and there is every possibility that the Israeli authorities could extend this period of closure even further accompanied by more sanctions and restrictions against Palestinian political leaders

Piotr, Ukraine:
How serious have been the disturbances WITHIN Israel, as opposed to the ones in the occupied territories?

Nick Childs:
This is a pre-occupying question and it also throws the question about the future of Jewish/Arab relations, which is a key concern at the moment.

Diana, Greece:
How serious have been the disturbances WITHIN Israel, as opposed to the ones in the occupied territories?

Nick Childs:
I think that there have been a least some instances of exchange of fire. There has also been a great deal of concern over the activity of militias who have made the situation more dangerous.

Ahmed Darwish, Nottingham, UK:
According to a Red Cross report the Israeli forces are shooting to kill because they are targeting the abdomen and the head of the Palestinians. Is this true?

Nick Childs:
One of the key issues on both sides is the extent to which force is being used. Lives are being threatened all the time.

Janeth, UK:
The Palestinians claim that the violence is a result of frustration on the ground with the slow progress of the peace process. Is that the feeling you have?

Nick Childs:
I think that's probably true. What we have seen is genuine anger and frustration on both sides. The Palestinians are concerned that the talks have not been going their way and the Israelis are frustrated at the slow progress.

Pedro Gomez, Colombia:
The Israelis claim that Yasser Arafat can control the violence if he wants to. To what extent is that true?

Nick Childs:
The Israeli Government does believe that Yasser Arafat can turn the violence on and off at will. Although what we have seen is attempts, at the official level who are trying to diffuse the violence.

Ahmed, Jordan:
Can the UN Secretary General be seen as an honest broker, given the UN's failure to implement any resolution regarding Israel?

Nick Childs:
Kofi Annan carries a great deal of authority but there are misgivings on both sides regarding the United Nations. It's an imperfect body and depends on its member states. The organisation is weakened when the member states can't agree amongst themselves. Having said that, there is no magic formula and these problems have to be worked through.

Robin Newman St Louis, USA:
What can the US do at this stage? Do they have any "carrots" to offer both sides, or any "sticks" to bash them with?

Nick Childs:
The USA remains the key influence in this situation because it is a superpower. They are the driving force, probably more so than the UN. Clinton would like to see some kind of peace in the region before he leaves office.

Timur Laskis, Istanbul:
What is known about the Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah?

Nick Childs:
We have very little information at the moment but it is a nightmare scenario for the Israelis and carries potential complications.

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