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Militants threaten new attacks, Palestinians poised for West Bank transfer (AFP-FRANCE PRESSE) GAZA CITY 01/31/05 5:11 PM ET)Source: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1515&ncid=1515&e=3&u=/afp/20050131/wl_mideast_afp/mideast_050131221125 AFP} Agence France Presse AFP} Agence France Presse Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
GAZA CITY (AFP) - Palestinian militants in Gaza threatened to resume anti-Israeli attacks, casting a shadow over Israeli-Palestinian talks on a planned transfer of security control in the West Bank.

Citing a list of Israeli military "aggressions", eight militant factions accused Israel of violating a cooling-down period negotiated by Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas in which militants agreed to suspend attacks.

"The enemy has challenged our quiet period by its continued aggression. We cannot allow the Zionist enemy to continue its daily violations without an answer," the factions said in a statement.

It was issued just hours after a 10-year-old Palestinian girl was shot dead in southern Gaza.

Despite the 11-day period of calm observed by the factions, Israel has killed as many as 22 Palestinians, the factions charged, also accusing the army of carrying out 33 incursions and making 196 arrests.

Militant groups such as Hamas have said they will declare a formal ceasefire only if Israel ends its military operations in the Gaza Strip and releases Palestinian prisoners.

Monday´s violence, which saw Hamas fire a salvo of seven mortar shells at Jewish settlements in Gaza in response to the girl´s killing, came amid burgeoning hopes for a breakthrough in the four- year-old conflict.

The flareup also cast a shadow over talks between former Palestinian security minister Mohammed Dahlan and Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz who were meeting late Monday over the planned transfer of security control in several West Bank towns.

At the outset of the meeting, Mofaz demanded that Dahlan ensure the Palestinian Authority take immediate action to stop the ongoing firing of mortar shells and Qassam rockets, army radio reported.

The Palestinians are expected to deploy their forces throughout at least four West Bank cities on Tuesday, a Palestinian official said earlier, but the move was dependent on progress in the Dahlan-Mofaz talks.

The two were also expected to discuss Palestinian demands for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Israel has already handed over security control in most of the Gaza Strip where thousands of Palestinian troops have been deployed with orders to stop anti-Israeli attacks.

Speaking at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Abbas said there was "an historic chance to bring about peace in the region".

Abbas´s comments echoed remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who said last week that he saw an "historic" opportunity to make progress in the peace process.

While Abbas looked to support from Moscow, Sharon dispatched three of his top advisors to Washington for talks with new US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is due in Israel on February 6.

However, the optimism generated by the recent calm was clouded over by the killing of 10-year-old girl Nuran Dean in a UN-run school in the southern Gaza town of Rafah.

Medical sources said the girl died instantly after being shot in the head by Israeli troops from an observation post on the border with Egypt.

The Israeli army said an initial investigation suggested troops had opened fire on only two occasions during the day, both of them in areas not near where the girl was shot.

A spokeswoman added that the army had asked for a joint investigation with the Palestinians.

An Israeli military source earlier said it was possible the girl had been killed by celebratory gunfire from Palestinians marking their return from the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

Her death raised to 4,725 the number of people killed since the start of the Palestinian intifada, or uprising, in September 2000, including 3,670 Palestinians and 981 Israelis.

And in the southern West Bank, an Israeli soldier was lightly wounded after Palestinians threw an explosive device at an army outpost near Bethlehem, witnesses and the Israeli army said. (Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse. 01/31/05)

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