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Israel puts West Bank security transfer on hold amid new shelling in Gaza (AFP-FRANCE PRESSE) RAMALLAH, West Bank 02/01/05 5:41 PM ET)Source: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1515&ncid=1515&e=2&u=/afp/20050201/wl_mideast_afp/mideast_050201220221 AFP} Agence France Presse AFP} Agence France Presse Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AFP) - Israel put the transfer of security control in parts of the West Bank on hold as a new volley of mortar attacks by Palestinian militants in Gaza further undermined a fragile truce.

Palestinians had been preparing to take control in the city of Ramallah, as well as Qalqilya, Jericho and Tulkarem on Tuesday but talks between Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz and former Palestinian security minister Mohammed Dahlan on the issue Monday night broke up without agreement.

Dahlan told reporters no date for a transfer had been agreed and that he would meet with Mofaz again on Thursday "to conclude an agreement on all the points of understanding."

Israel had appeared ready to hand over responsibility to the Palestinians in parts of the West Bank after they had managed to put a halt to attacks by militant groups in the Gaza Strip.

However, a spate of mortar shelling by the radical Islamist group Hamas on Monday, in response to the killing of a Palestinian schoolgirl, and further attacks on Tuesday have underlined the limitations of the Palestinian forces.

Israeli sources said Mofaz had told Dahlan there would be no transfers in the West Bank until there was a complete halt to the mortar attacks in Gaza.

While Hamas claimed responsibility for the attacks on Monday, the al- Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Islamic Jihad said Tuesday that they had fired shells at a settlement in northern Gaza.

Israeli military sources also said three mortar rounds had hit settlements in southern Gaza Tuesday but without causing injuries. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

New Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas had managed to persuade groups such as Hamas to observe an unofficial "cooling down" period but eight militant factions issued a statement on Monday night threatening to resume attacks.

Dahlan, however, warned that the Palestinian Authority would not allow "any group to just do what it wants and impose their will on the Palestinian leadership."

Israel is adamant that its troops were not responsible for the killing of the schoolgirl, suggesting that she may have been shot by celebratory gunfire from Palestinians who were returning from the Muslim pilgrimage in Mecca.

"Immediately after the news of the death, we opened an inquiry which has established that our forces did not open fire at any time on Monday in the area," an army spokesman told AFP.

Israeli security sources said Palestinian officials told their Israeli counterparts late Tuesday that a Palestinian man from Rafah was arrested by Palestinian security services suspected of opening fire in the school where the girl was hit.

Palestinian security officials denied this, insisting the girl was killed by Israeli soldiers.

In an interview with a Russian newspaper published Tuesday, Abbas made an unprecedented criticism of his late predecessor Yasser Arafat, saying "there were black stains in his policy."

"In the West, he (Arafat) was viewed completely differently than by us. They called him a terrorist, charged him with resisting reform and not fulfilling his commitments in negotiations. He was seen as a dictator," he told the Kommersant daily.

"We of course cannot ignore this negative side" to Arafat´s rule, he added.

Meanwhile, Israeli public television reported that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would meet with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman Wednesday amid setbacks to the growing rapprochement between Israel and the Palestinians.

The previously unannounced meeting will be devoted to the latest "difficulties" between Israel and the Palestinians, the report said.

Egypt has traditionally played a key role in the Middle East peace process. (Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse. 02/01/05)

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