Archive for Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Israel, Palestinians ready for high-level talks

September 11, 2001

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— Israel and the Palestinians said they were willing to hold high-level truce talks today, despite a series of deadly weekend attacks by Arab militants, but remained at odds over where the meetings should take place.

Throwing further uncertainty on the talks, Israeli tanks began shelling the West Bank town of Jenin and a nearby refugee camp early this morning, knocking out electricity, witnesses said. Israel had said Jenin was used by attackers to plan a suicide bombing.

Israel radio said tanks were apparently seeking to cut off all access to the Palestinian town without entering it. Israel army radio reported that the Palestinian Authority said the talks would be canceled if Israeli forces entered Jenin.

In other violence in the West Bank, two Israelis were killed in a Palestinian shooting attack near the town of Tulkarem, army radio reported. Police said there was an exchange of fire near the border and there were casualties.

Even if Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat settle the disagreement over the venue for truce talksm there is little expectation they would produce a cease-fire.

The sides were unable to agree on a site by midnight Monday. It wasn't known if the discussions over a venue were continuing into the early hours today, or if they had been suspended and would resume later.

Previous U.S.-led truce efforts have failed to stop nearly a year of fighting and the Palestinians suspect Peres has only a limited mandate, while Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon remains distrustful of Arafat's intentions.

Also, Arafat's planned meeting Wednesday in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar Assad, a staunch opponent of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, was seen as a possible signal the Palestinians are hardening their stance toward Israel.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said he was trying to help renew Israeli-Palestinian security talks and that he spoke with Peres by telephone three times in recent days.

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