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Tuesday, June 12, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Settlers take baby's body to Sharon

The Associated Press

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JERUSALEM - About 1,000 Jewish settlers from the West Bank gathered outside Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office yesterday with a baby's body to demand he retaliate for Palestinian attacks.

Five-month-old Yehuda Shoham died yesterday, six days after a rock shattered the windshield of the family car.

Shouts of "Vengeance!" and "Go to war" rang out as Sharon stepped to a podium to address the settlers. One man, his face red with anger, shouted at Sharon: "Coward," before police and other settlers restrained him.

Sharon acknowledged settlers' impatience with cease-fires, but Israelis, he said, have withstood hard times and overcome enemies before and will again.

An 18-year-old Palestinian security agent wounded the same day as Yehuda also died yesterday. The two deaths, and the killing Saturday night of three Palestinian women in Gaza by Israeli tank fire, followed nearly a week without fatalities, a rarity since violence flared Sept. 28. Since then, 489 people have been killed on the Palestinian side and 109 on the Israeli side.

The baby's father, Benny Shoham, thanked "the nation of Israel" for sharing the family's grief and said he hoped his son's death would strengthen the people and the government.

"We should not despair, even when the situation is as bad as now," he said. "I am asking you please to continue to pray for peace."

Last night, meanwhile, Palestinian and Israeli security chiefs failed to agree on a U.S.-authored plan for firming up a fragile cease-fire, a senior Palestinian security official said.

The official said that during more than three hours of talks in Jerusalem, attended by CIA Director George Tenet, the Palestinian side had rejected an Israeli demand that the Palestinians take security measures before Israel lifts a blockade on areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Also yesterday, a suspected car bomb critically wounded a member of the militant group Islamic Jihad in the West Bank. In east Jerusalem, Israeli bulldozers demolished a Palestinian home they said had been built without permission.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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