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THE MIDEAST IN BRIEF

Israeli offensive kills 2 Palestinians

GAZA CITY -- Israel killed two Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank yesterday and detained parliamentary speaker Aziz Dweik, a Hamas leader, and another Hamas lawmaker, Palestinian officials said. A 13-year-old boy was killed in southern Gaza in an Israeli airstrike overnight as Israel continued to press its offensive against militants across the coastal strip, medics said. Later yesterday, Israeli forces killed a wanted Palestinian gunman near the northern West Bank town of Jenin, a spokesman for the Islamic Jihad militant group said. He named the dead gunman as 25-year-old Rashed al-Omary. (Reuters)

England

Blair seeks backing for peace proposal
LONDON -- Prime Minister Tony Blair held talks yesterday with President Bush, Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and President Jacques Chirac of France on diplomatic efforts to end the war in Lebanon, officials said. ``The prime minister has had long phone conversations with Bush and with Putin about how to secure the maximum support for the UN resolution [on Lebanon] and to get agreement as soon as possible to that resolution," a spokesman for Blair said. Meanwhile, UN Security Council envoys in New York tried to put the finishing touches to a resolution drafted by France and the United States calling for a halt to fighting and setting terms for a settlement. (Reuters)

Lebanon

Cease-fire initiative will fail, Syrian says
BEIRUT -- Syria's foreign minister declared yesterday that a US-French cease-fire plan was ``a recipe for the continuation of the war," between Israeli and Hezbollah, which he said the Jewish state cannot win. As he spoke, Israeli warplanes struck a few miles away in the Beirut's southern suburbs, a Hezbollah stronghold. Walid Moallem, on his first visit to Lebanon since Damascus ended a 29-year military presence there last year, said only a complete Israeli pullout would prompt Hezbollah guerrillas to stop fighting. (AP)

Israel

Slain American is laid to rest
KIBBUTZ SAAR -- An American immigrant killed by a Hezbollah rocket as he was riding his bicycle toward a bomb shelter in northern Israel was buried yesterday. David Lelchook, 52, who moved to Israel from Newton, had stayed behind in his farming community of Kibbutz Saar to tend to his orchard and take care of his dogs. On Wednesday, a Katyusha rocket exploded next to him, killing him instantly. Lelchook was a member of the collective farming village for 20 years. He was married and had two children. His family moved to safety in southern Israel, along with an estimated 100,000 other residents of the north. But Lelchook stayed behind. (AP)

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