days earlier on Monday, but they continued to raid two other Palestinian ruled cities, eye-witnesses said.
The army’s withdrawal from Bethlehem, where Jesus believe Christians was born, coincided with a new coordinated international effort to staunch 20 months of Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed.
"There has been too much suffering and too much death for both Palestinians and Israelis," the Reuters news agency quoted United States Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns as saying, following his talks with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Ramallah.
Earlier in Cairo, the US. envoy said there had been "too much death and too much suffering for both Israelis and Palestinians." He stressed that the "daily humiliations that ordinary Palestinians" suffer under occupation are getting worse every day. "It is time to restore a sense of hope," he added.
However there were few signs of hope Thursday, May 30, amid fresh reports of violence. Palestinian witnesses said 15 people were wounded by Israeli gunfire, including an 11-year-old, in the southern Gaza Strip near the border with Egypt, the Voice of America (VOA) said.
The Palestinians added that youngsters had thrown pipe bombs at tanks near a border fence and troops had responded with gunfire. At least 1,375 Palestinians and 486 Israelis have been killed since the Palestinian uprising began, 20 months ago, according to figures released Thursday, May 30.
CIA Director George Tenet was expected to travel to the region Friday for consultations on security issues. Egypt’s President Mubarak will meet with President Bush at Camp David next week, VOA said.
The developments came as on the Israeli political front, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon emerged stronger from a coalition crisis when the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, which he had dismissed for rejecting an austerity package, reportedly agreed to back it and rejoin the government.