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Mid-East talks raise peace hopes (BBC) 01/26/05 17:20 GMT)Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4207885.stm BBC} BRITISH BROADCASTING COMPANY BBC} BRITISH BROADCASTING COMPANY Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Israeli and Palestinian officials have met in Jerusalem amid what appear to be improving ties between the two sides.

Head Israeli adviser Dov Weisglass held talks with Palestinian Negotiations Minister Saeb Erekat, officials said.

It follows Israeli PM Ariel Sharon´s decision to lift a ban on diplomatic contacts, and may lead to a summit with new Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

But Palestinian and Israeli security officials meeting in southern Gaza have come under attack by Jewish settlers.

The officials were discussing security issues at the Tufah checkpoint when settlers threw stones and punctured their car tyres.

Five settlers were detained for questioning and the Palestinian policemen had to leave the area without their vehicles.

Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Zeev Boim said it was a very grave incident that could hamper efforts to protect settlers from militant attacks.

"You can´t be 100% sure it will achieve this, but at least there is an effort in that direction, and it is really strange that the very settlers who are suffering from the shooting are the ones trying to torpedo this process," he said.

Earlier, a three-year-old Palestinian girl died in Deir al-Balah after Israeli troops opened fire, Palestinian doctors said. The army said troops had opened fire in retaliation for a rocket attack on southern Israel.

And in the West Bank city of Qalqilya, undercover Israeli troops shot dead a wanted Palestinian militant and wounded a teenage passer-by during a raid.

Cautious steps

There had been a marked drop in violence since Palestinian forces were deployed along the northern Gaza-Israel border last week.

Mr Sharon agreed on Wednesday to end a two-week freeze on ties with the Palestinian leadership, which came after six Israelis were killed in an attack in Gaza.

The talks between Mr Weisglass and Mr Erekat in Jerusalem are thought to have discussed a possible summit between Mr Sharon and Mr Abbas, but no date has been announced.

Palestinian officials say an agreement has been reached to deploy Palestinian security forces in the southern Gaza Strip within 24 hours in an effort to reduce attacks.

Palestinian forces will also be given responsibility for security in at least four West Bank cities in the coming days, they said.

´Temporary truce´

Israel has reportedly said it will not carry out targeted killings of Palestinian militants in areas where Palestinian police can assure security - a key Palestinian demand for ending violence.

Israeli security officials told news agencies the Palestinians had been informed of the policy change.

On Tuesday, Hamas said it was considering a temporary truce.

But Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal told the Associated Press news agency the group would respond to any new attacks by Israel.

Israel plans to pull out settlers and the troops who protect them from the Gaza Strip and part of the northern West Bank, territory that it captured from Arab control in the 1967 war. (© BBC MMV 01/26/05)


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