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Qorei, Sharon to meet next week amid fears of flare-up in violence (AFP-FRANCE PRESSE) JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 12/12/03 10:41 AM ET) Source: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1504&ncid=1504&e=3&u=/afp/20031212/ts_afp/mideast_031212154131
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JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Palestinian counterpart Ahmed Qorei were expected to meet next week, amid fears of renewed violence as seven religious Jews were wounded Friday in a Palestinian attack at a West Bank holy site.
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The relative calm which has prevailed over the past two to three months appeared more fragile than ever as the hardline Palestinian movement staged mass demonstrations in the Gaza Strip to mark its 16th anniversary.
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After Friday prayers, up to 40,000 Palestinians converged to the northern refugee camp of Jabalya, where the radical Islamic group was founded in 1987 at the beginning of the first intifada, which lasted until 1993.
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"I swear to Allah that not one Jew will remain on our land of Palestine," the movementīs political leader in the Palestinian territories, Abdelaziz Rantissi, told the swelling crowd.
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"We will never make concessions on our absolute right to the whole of the Holy Land, to the whole of Jerusalem and to the right of return of all our refugees," he said.
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A major hurdle to the much-delayed summit between the Israeli and Palestinian premiers was cleared when Qorei dropped any precondition, including one on the controversial construction by Israel of a separation barrier with the West Bank.
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"They managed to convince prime minister Abu Alaa (Qoreiīs alias) to give up putting forward preconditions," Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Eli Sheked told reporters in Cairo, adding "itīs an Egyptian contribution."
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On Friday, the top-selling Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot published an interview with Qorei, in which he confirmed a meeting was on the cards for next week.
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"I donīt want to come out of the meeting with a picture," he told the paper. "I want to come out with results. I want a positive message for both the Palestinians and the Israelis. I believe that the meeting will take place within days."
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Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told public radio from Washington, where he is scheduled for talks with US Secretary of State Colin Powell, that he also expected the meeting for next week.
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The first meeting between the two premiers since Qoreiīs new government was approved last month is aimed at putting the internationally drafted roadmap for peace back on track.
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But on Friday, seven Israelis were injured in a pre-dawn attack at a holy site in the West Bank city of Nablus, which is said to be the burial place of the biblical patriarch Joseph but whose access the army has banned to Jews for security reasons.
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The hardline Palestinian group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the ambush, which it said was to avenge the deaths of six Palestinians during an Israeli raid into the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah on Thursday.
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"This attack was a rapid answer to the massacre of our martyrs in the Rafah refugee camp," said a statement by the groupīs military wing, the Al-Quds Battalions, received by AFP in Gaza City.
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The massive operation launched by the army near the Egyptian border was aimed at capturing a senior leader of the group and sparked accusations by the Palestinian Authority that Israel was trying to scupper peace efforts.
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"We confirm our choice of military resistance," the statement said. "We will teach the Zionist enemy a painful lesson and will strike deep inside Israel."
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The last successful suicide attack in Israel was carried out on October 4 by an Islamic Jihad bomber who killed 21 people in the northern city of Haifa.
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On Friday, the Israeli army also launched a pre-dawn raid into the northern West Bank city of Jenin, sparking clashes with armed Palestinians that apparently caused no casualties.
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And in the village of Durra, near the southern West Bank city of Hebron, Israeli troops demolished the house of an Islamic Jihad militant who was killed three months ago over his involvement in an ambush that left 12 Israelis dead a year ago.
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The army claims house demolitions deter future attackers, but rights groups charge they amount to collective punishment. (Copyright Đ 2003 Agence France Presse. 12/12/03)
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