Archive for Sunday, June 15, 2003

New offers surface in Mideast peace talks

U.S. monitors arrive to supervise negotiation

June 15, 2003


— Israel offered to withdraw troops from parts of the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinians expressed readiness to take control of security as the two sides held new talks Saturday to patch up a U.S.-backed peace plan. But hours later, Israeli forces entering a Gaza town killed a Palestinian.

Meanwhile, the first contingent of U.S. monitors who were to supervise implementation of the "road map" peace plan -- a team of 10 to 15 officials headed by John Wolf, an assistant secretary of state -- headed to the region Saturday.

Renewed violence, including a Jerusalem bus bombing by the militant Hamas group and a string of Israeli helicopter raids in Gaza, has claimed 62 lives since the June 4 launch of the road map, which envisions an end to 32 months of violence and the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.

Early Sunday, Israeli forces entered the Palestinian town of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, setting off an exchange of gunfire, Palestinians said. One Palestinian was killed and seven wounded, doctors said. Palestinians said the man killed was a local commander of the violent Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades group and soldiers targeted him.

Israeli military sources said soldiers looking for rocket launchers were fired at and shot back. For several weeks, Israel has been in control of the Beit Hanoun area, next to the border fence, trying to prevent Palestinians from firing rockets at Israeli towns.

Despite the worsening situation, behind-the-scenes meetings were continuing.

A high-level delegation of Egyptian security officials planned to arrive today in Gaza to meet with Hamas officials to discuss a possible end to attacks.

However, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who broke off cease-fire talks with the Palestinian leadership a week ago, said Saturday they had no plans to halt attacks on Israel.

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