Israel Kills Four Suspected Militants

Israeli troops shot and killed four suspected militants Sunday after they fired at Jordanian border guards and then slipped into Israel across the usually quiet frontier, officials in both countries said.

In other violence that came as U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni planned another round of truce talks on Sunday night, an Israeli woman was fatally shot while traveling on a West Bank road, and Israeli troops killed a Palestinian policeman in a gunbattle nearby.

The persistent bloodshed complicated Zinni's efforts to arrange a Mideast cease-fire ahead of an Arab League summit that begins Wednesday.

Zinni's mission is open-ended, but he faces pressure to reach a deal before the summit in Beirut, Lebanon, which will focus heavily on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat wants to attend, but Israel has not given him permission to go and may keep him grounded if there is no truce deal.

Zinni planned Sunday night talks in Tel Aviv with the Israelis and Palestinians, who have endorsed the U.S. cease-fire plan in principle but remain divided on several key issues.

Meanwhile, Jordan's army said several men opened fire on a border patrol overnight and then escaped across the Yarmouk River, which serves as the frontier. Israeli military officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said Israeli troops backed by helicopters tracked down and fatally shot dead four infiltrators.

The identities of the suspected militants were not known.

Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994 and the border has remained mostly quiet, with security forces from the two countries working to prevent attacks. However, in several cases, militant Palestinians have entered Israel from Jordan, where more than half the population is of Palestinian origin and many oppose the peace deal with Israel.

In other violence Sunday, an Israeli woman was killed when the bus she was riding came under fire near the entrance to the Jewish settlement of Ateret, near Ramallah in the West Bank. Palestinian militants have frequently targeted Jewish settlers on West Bank roads, and the Israeli military blamed Palestinians.

A short time later, Israeli troops fatally shot a policeman at a Palestinian checkpoint outside the Deir es-Sudan, a village near Ateret, Palestinian officials said, adding that Israeli troops tried to enter the village. The Israeli army said its soldiers came under fire from the checkpoint while searching for the killers of the Israeli woman.

Zinni has been meeting with both sides for the past 10 days on a U.S. truce plan worked out last year by CIA director George Tenet.

Zinni ``shows a serious determination to reach a solution within the coming two days, and we hope he will succeed in doing it,'' Abdel Razak Majaida, the Palestinian chief of public security in the Gaza Strip, said Saturday.

Despite such forecasts, the Israelis and Palestinians disagree on the timetable for implementing the truce plan, with each insisting the other take the first key steps.

Israel, backed by the United States, has repeatedly called on Arafat to clamp down on militants. The Palestinians say Israel must pull back its troops to the positions they held at the outbreak of the fighting in September 2000.

President Bush said Saturday that Arafat has not done enough to fight terrorism.

``There's been no question that the United States has stood strong with Israel and we've made it clear to Mr. Arafat that he is not doing all he can do to fight off terror,'' Bush said in Lima, Peru, part of a Latin American tour.

Sunday's meeting between the two sides could determine whether Vice President Dick Cheney goes to Egypt this week for talks with Arafat. The meeting may also help Zinni decide whether Arafat has accepted conditions for a cease-fire.

In another development, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told his Cabinet that he would like to go to the Arab summit to explain the Israeli position on the Mideast conflict.

``I think it would be appropriate that I be permitted to appear before the conference in Beirut and to state what Israel's position is and that Israel's plans are, because in the last analysis no plan can be carried though without Israel,'' Sharon was quoted as saying by his office.

Sharon is widely despised throughout the Arab world, and there appeared virtually no prospect he would be invited to Lebanon, a country technically at war with Israel.

Arafat would be one of the key figures at the summit, but Sharon's government has not said whether it will give Arafat permission to go.

Israel barred Arafat from leaving the West Bank town of Ramallah last December, and though he is now free to move around the Palestinian territories, he still needs Israeli approval to travel abroad.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Arafat should be allowed to go, arguing that if he remains at home, ``the Beirut summit will become the Ramallah summit, with all eyes focused there.''