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Peace in the Middle East?

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  • Peace in the Middle East?

    JERUSALEM - Israel has stopped targeting Palestinian militants for death, according to Israeli security officials, fulfilling a key Palestinian demand for a truce to end four years of violence.

    The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israel has informed the Palestinians of their decision. It came after generals from the two sides met Tuesday to plan deployment of Palestinian police in central and southern Gaza, to prevent militants from attacking Israelis.
    Since he took office earlier this month, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has been negotiating with militant groups about a truce declaration. In return, the militants are demanding that Israel stop its military operations and halt its killing of militant leaders.

    The groups agreed to a one-month halt in attacks to test Israel’s response.

    On Tuesday, the Damascus-based leader of the violent Islamic Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, laid down conditions for a truce in a telephone interview with The Associated Press in Damascus.

    “If the Zionist enemy (Israel) abides by certain conditions, such as releasing all prisoners and detainees and halting all acts of killing, assassination and aggression against our people inside and outside (the Palestinian territories), the general national position of all Palestinian factions has become that they are ready to positively deal with the idea of a temporary truce,” Mashaal said.

    Israel is holding about 7,000 Palestinian prisoners, including some responsible for bloody attacks, but Israel has not agreed to free them.

    The security officials said Israel would not act on its current target list of militants, but they warned that if Palestinians resume hostile activity, they will target those responsible.

    Hopes for formal talks elevated
    The apparent softening of Hamas’ position raised hopes that Abbas would soon reach a formal cease-fire with militant groups that would pave the way for a new round of peace talks with Israel.

    In an interview published in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat, Mashaal said recent truce talks with Abbas had produced “positive results.”

    Lower-level Hamas leaders have talked in recent days of accepting a temporary truce, but the interview Tuesday was the first time Mashaal had publicly given his approval. A senior Hamas leader in the West Bank has said the group has agreed to suspend attacks for 30 days to test Israel’s response.

    In summer 2003, Hamas had agreed to a truce that fell apart after less than two months.

    Israel has refused to guarantee it would not pursue militants, but has said it will respond to calm with calm.

    South Gaza deployment plans
    Also Tuesday, Israeli and Palestinian security chiefs agreed to deployment of more Palestinian forces in the Gaza Strip to prevent militant attacks, a Palestinian official said.

    The agreement, after a two-hour meeting, means the Palestinians could send additional forces to those already in northern Gaza, and extend their control to the central and southern parts of the strip, the official told Reuters. The official, close to the Palestinian security chief in Gaza, Moussa Arafat, said the Palestinian forces could be deployed as soon as Wednesday, once another forum of Israeli and Palestinian officers coordinates the moves.

    Israel had no immediate official comment. But the Israeli YNet Web site reported that Israeli generals had approved in principle the Palestinian troop plan.

    Plans for a south Gaza deployment, another step toward ending four years of violence with Israel, came just days after some 3,000 Palestinian police deployed in northern Gaza to prevent rocket attacks on Israeli communities. No rockets or mortars have hit Israeli communities since last week.

    Erekat said he has been in touch by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s aides to prepare for an Israeli-Palestinian summit.

    The Palestinians want to reach agreement before the summit on key issues, such as the release of prisoners and an Israeli troop redeployment in the West Bank.

    Sharon, meanwhile, harshly criticized opponents of his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and dismantle four West Bank settlements by this summer. Jewish settler leaders have demanded that Sharon hold a referendum on the plan, but he has refused, arguing the withdrawal already has been approved by the Cabinet and parliament.

    Addressing parliament, Sharon said that “in the past year, there has been an upsurge of voices threatening the integrity of Israeli democracy.” Without mentioning the pullback plan, Sharon complained that a minority in Israel was unwilling to accept the will of the majority.

    Protest against West Bank barrier
    About 300 Palestinian protesters scuffled with Israeli police during a Tuesday demonstration near the Jewish settlement of Ariel against the separation barrier Israel is building in the West Bank.

    Pointing to the renewed construction work on the barrier, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia accused Israel of operating in bad faith.

    “Israel is continuing settlement activities and construction on the wall in Ariel and it’s confiscating property in east Jerusalem. This is a very bad message from the Israeli side and the world should pay attention to it,” he said.
    Israel says it needs the barrier, which dips deeply into the West Bank in some parts, to keep out militants. Palestinians, who want the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem for a future state, call the barrier a land grab.

    Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority workers protected by police tore down illegal buildings along Gaza City’s beachfront early Tuesday in a step by Abbas to restore law and order in Gaza. The operation was the first of its kind in Gaza City, where dozens of small shops, cafes and kiosks have sprung up along the Mediterranean beach in recent years.

    Abbas, who took office after winning a Jan. 9 election to replace Yasser Arafat, has pledged to restore order in the chaotic Palestinian areas, where armed gangs frequently roam with impunity, while also trying to restart peace talks with Israel.

    “We are in a new era now. We must respect the law,” said police commander Moussa Allaian, who is in charge of the operation.
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  • #2
    thats gonna be short lived.....peace and middle east are 2 contradicting words


    • #3


      • #4
        Deja vu?