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Dahlan´s guards battle Hamas gunmen following talks with Mofaz (ISRAEL INSIDER) By Ellis Shuman 07/11/03) Source: http://web.israelinsider.com/bin/en.jsp?enPage=ArticlePage&enDisplay=view&enDispWhat=object&enDispWho=Article%5El2501&enZone=Diplomacy&enVersion=0&
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Fearing an assassination attempt on Palestinian Minister of Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan, the minister´s bodyguards shot and wounded an armed Hamas member in Gaza overnight. Dahlan´s aides later termed the shootout a "misunderstanding." Earlier, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told Dahlan that the Palestinians were "approaching the moment of truth" and would need to disarm the terrorists.
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The shooting incident occurred shortly after midnight following Dahlan´s meeting with Mofaz at the Erez Crossing in the northern Gaza Strip. Dahlan´s convoy of vehicles was passing through the streets of Gaza City when his bodyguards spotted an armed Palestinian and assumed he was a member of Hamas. Fearing that the man was attempting to assassinate the minister, the guards fired at the man and wounded him.
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A gun battle between Dahlan´s guards and Hamas gunmen ensued, but there were no additional casualties, ynet reported. Dahlan´s guards transported the injured gunmen to a Gaza hospital, where he was treated for injuries in his leg.
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Dahlan´s aides later said the incident represented a "misunderstanding," media sources reported.
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Earlier Thursday night, Dahlan and Mofaz convened the first session of the joint Israeli-Palestinian security committee. Political analysts said the Palestinians insisted on holding the meeting as scheduled to show that the peace process was continuing despite the Palestinian leadership crisis.
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At the meeting, Dahlan called on Israel to immediately begin releasing Palestinian prisoners and increase the number of prisoners scheduled to be freed. Dahlan also called for further IDF withdrawals and the transfer of security responsibilities in additional West Bank towns.
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Haaretz reported that Mofaz rejected both requests but other Israeli media reported that the issues would be discussed at a meeting between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen, tentatively scheduled for the end of next week. Sharon and Abu Mazen were due to meet this week but the Palestinians canceled the meeting at the last minute due to their "internal crisis."
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Israeli security sources said that Mofaz told Dahlan that the Palestinians were "approaching the moment of truth" where they would have to prove their seriousness in combating terror. "All in all, the process so far is positive, but we could lose the momentum," Mofaz warned, according to a ynet report.
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Security sources told ynet that Mofaz´s comments indicated that the sides would soon mark the end of the first two weeks since the Palestinian terrorist organizations declared a hudna, or temporary cease-fire. Now Israel expects that the Palestinian Authority will begin acting in earnest against the terrorists and disarm them of their weaponry.
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Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter recently said that the disarming of the terrorists was the real test of the Palestinians´ seriousness to make progress in the peace process, and only afterwards would Israel be willing to make further withdrawals in the West Bank. (© 2001-2003 Koret Communications Ltd. 07/11/03)
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