Settlers Protest Outside Sharon's Office

From Times Wire Services

With the tiny body of a dead baby before them, about 1,000 Jewish settlers from the West Bank gathered outside Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office Monday to demand that he retaliate for Palestinian attacks.

Five-month-old Yehuda Shoham died Monday, nearly a week after a rock shattered the windshield of the family car as his father drove toward their West Bank home in the Shiloh settlement.

The settlers had already scheduled a rally Monday, but when the boy died, they held the funeral service in its place.

Shouts of "Vengeance!" and "Go to war!" rang out as Sharon stepped to a lectern to address the settlers.

Sharon acknowledged settlers' impatience with cease-fires that were declared by both sides but that Israel maintains it alone follows. Israelis, he said, have withstood hard times and overcome enemies before--and will do so again.

An 18-year-old Palestinian security agent wounded the same day as Yehuda also died Monday. Naseem Agha was declared clinically dead five days ago, not long after a rubber-coated Israeli bullet fractured his skull.

With his son's body inside a blue military-style vehicle, 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.

The infant, who suffered severe brain damage when he was struck by the rock, never regained consciousness. A funeral procession carried his body back to the Shiloh settlement for burial later Monday.

Meanwhile, CIA chief George J. Tenet met Monday with Israeli and Palestinian security leaders, trying to persuade the two sides to agree to a U.S.-authored proposal for ending the violence.

The security chiefs failed to agree on the plan, a senior Palestinian security official said. He said that during more than three hours of talks, the Palestinian side rejected an Israeli demand that the Palestinians take security measures before Israel lifts its blockade on Palestinian areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

He added that the meeting had been "very tense" and that the two sides had argued and shouted as the Israeli representatives refused to lift the closure immediately.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli side. Israel's Army Radio said another meeting was expected today.

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