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Two Palestinians killed in Israeli army fire

Two Palestinians were killed and a third seriously wounded by Israeli army fire in the West Bank today.

The incident comes a day after an Israeli motorist was gunned down by Palestinians near Jerusalem.

The flare-up of violence came as Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon intensified efforts to bring predecessor Ehud Barak and his moderate Labour Party into his government.

A new round of coalition talks was due to be held today.

Near the West Bank village of Al Khader, the Israeli army shot at a van taking Palestinian workers to jobs in Israel.

Ziyad Abu Swai, 20, was killed by a shot to the chest, and Mohammed Barmeel suffered serious neck injuries, Palestinian doctors said.

At the time of the shooting, Palestinians in Al Khader were throwing stones at troops in the area, the army said.

In the West Bank village of Rafat, Palestinians and Israeli troops were engaged in gunfire for several hours this morning. When a car drove from the village toward an army roadblock, soldiers opened fire, killing one of the passengers, the army said.

The violence came a day after an Israeli motorist, Tzahi Sasson, 35, was killed by Palestinian gunmen on a main West Bank road leading to Jerusalem.

The latest fighting brought to 389 the number of people killed in Israeli-Palestinian violence in the past five months. Of those, some 340 were Arabs and nearly 50 were Jews.

Teams representing Labour and Sharon’s Likud were to meet later today to negotiate the terms of joint government.

Former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, a senior Labour official strongly in favour of a joint government, said that the Likud has agreed to several Labour conditions for a coalition agreement on how the peace process should be handled.

The Likud supports the establishment of a Palestinian state and supports territorial compromise, Peres told Israel army radio.

‘‘The question is if he (Sharon) is willing to write these things down in a coalition agreement,’’ Peres said.

A major sticking point was Labour’s insistence that Likud agree in writing to dismantle some Jewish settlements as part of any deal with the Palestinians.

Peres, an architect of the first accord with the Palestinians, said he wants to become foreign minister in a new government. Sharon has offered Peres the job.