New Gaza Violence Strains De Facto Truce (REUTERS) By Mark Heinrich RAFAH, Gaza Strip Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Mohammed Assadi in Ramallah 01/31/05 12:04 PM ET)
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RAFAH, Gaza Strip (Reuters) - Israeli gunfire killed a Palestinian
girl at a U.N.-run school Monday, witnesses said, and militants
shelled Jewish settlements in response, straining a de facto truce
that has raised hopes for peace.
The incidents punctured the relative calm that has settled over the
Gaza Strip over the past two weeks, following new Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas´s efforts to coax gunmen into a cease-fire
ahead of a planned Israeli pullout this summer.
Hamas launched mortar bombs and makeshift Qassam rockets at the Gush
Katif settlement bloc after the girl´s shooting, causing no
casualties, and a spokesman for the Islamic group said further
violence would depend on Israeli military actions.
Earlier, witnesses in Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip
said 10-year-old Noran Deeb was killed by gunfire from an Israeli
army post down the road while she and classmates were exercising in
their schoolyard during morning assembly.
"Two girls fell to the ground, one was hit in the head and the other
in the hand," teacher Mazen al-Ghandour told Reuters.
An Israeli military source said the army was not aware of its forces
being involved in any shooting near the position on the border with
Egypt, where soldiers and militants have often clashed during the 4-
year-old Palestinian uprising.
"We are continuing to look into the report and the army plans to
investigate in cooperation with the Palestinians," the source said.
A Reuters correspondent visiting the blood-stained schoolyard said
it did not appear that Israeli soldiers some 600 meters (yards) away
could have seen into the compound from their position behind high
Witnessess said there were no confrontations between soldiers and
gunmen at the time of the shooting.
"We heard Abu Mazen (Abbas) talking about redeployment. We heard
talk about a cease-fire. But it seems there is nothing like that on
the ground," the dead girl´s mother said.
"My daughter was lovely. Today she went to school earlier than
usual. She said she wanted to play with her schoolmates before
WEST BANK PULLBACK TALKS
Abbas´s representative, Mohammed Dahlan, and Israeli Defense
Minister Shaul Mofaz planned to meet later in the day to try to
finalize an Israeli troop pullback from West Bank cities.
Palestinian security sources said the talks, following a meeting
between the two men Saturday, would go ahead but Dahlan would voice
his displeasure over the killing of the schoolgirl.
The sources said Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority has its
headquarters, was likely to be the first West Bank city to be handed
over to Palestinian security forces. Mofaz said on Sunday pullbacks
could begin within days.
The Israeli army has checkpoints around West Bank cities and has
mounted frequent incursions in pursuit of wanted militants,
operations the Palestinian sources said would end on condition Abbas
kept the gunmen in check.
Last week, Palestinian security forces fanned out across the
southern Gaza Strip, building on an earlier deployment in the
northern part of the territory, following talks between Israeli and
But Rafah residents told Reuters the paramilitary police had not
been stationed near the army post they said had fired at the school
Monday. (Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and
Mohammed Assadi in Ramallah) (© Reuters 2005. 01/31/05)
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