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Israeli Families Sign Agreement on Leaving Gaza Strip (CNS-CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE) By Julie Stahl JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 02/01/05)Source: http://www.cnsnews.com//ViewForeignBureaus.asp?Page=\ForeignBureaus\archive\200502\FOR20050201d.html CNS} CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE CNS} CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Dozens of Israeli families signed a memorandum of understanding on moving out of their communities in the northern Gaza Strip, it was announced on Tuesday.

In other developments, Palestinians fired mortar shells at southern Gaza Strip settlements despite recent moves toward greater Israeli- Palestinian security cooperation.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz called on Palestinian Authority security forces to stop militants from firing mortars at Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip and to actively fight terrorism.

Four mortar shells were fired at Israeli communities in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday causing some damage but no injuries, the army said. Nine other mortars were fired at the area from late Monday afternoon and overnight.

The first mortars were fired after a 10-year-old Palestinian girl, Nurhan Deeb was shot in the head while waiting to enter school in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

Palestinians accused Israeli soldiers of firing the deadly shot from an army outpost. But Israel denied it, saying that an initial investigation showed the warning shots had been fired too far from the school to have injured or killed the girl.

Instead, Israel suggested that shots had been fired by Palestinians in celebration of their return home from the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. (Firing weapons in the air is common at Arab celebrations.)

Eight terrorist organizations including Hamas, Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades and Islamic Jihad issued a joint statement warning that they would resume terror attacks if Israel continued what they considered its aggression.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad said earlier this week that the announcement of a temporary truce would depend on what measures Israel was willing to take.

Palestinian groups are demanding that Israel withdraw from all Palestinian cities, release all Palestinian prisoners and end its pursuit of "wanted" Palestinians.

Head of Israeli Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aharon Ze´evi told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas had allowed terrorist groups to keep their weapons while they were discussing a ceasefire.

Radical groups were only interesting in creating calm rather than an actual ceasefire or hudna (temporary truce), he added.

"The axis of evil - which includes the Hizballah, Hamas and al Qaeda organizations supported by Iran - adamantly opposes calm, and Hamas and Hizballah are working together to destroy the ceasefire," Ze´evi was quoted as saying.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan welcomed the idea of a ceasefire on Monday but said it would not be enough. "Ultimately we need to dismantle those terrorist organizations," he said.

Despite the trouble, Mofaz met Monday evening with Palestinian Authority security chief Mohammed Dahlan to discuss the Israeli transfer of West Bank cities to Palestinian security control.

Mofaz told Dahlan that the transfer of West Bank cities would be influenced by the situation in Gaza and whether the mortar fire stopped.

The Rafah border crossing where Palestinians cross from the Gaza Strip into Egypt was reopened on Tuesday as a result of the meeting. Two other crossings from the Gaza Strip into Israel will be opened only after the PA comes up with plans to better secure the areas, the Defense Ministry said.

Diplomacy

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon´s bureau chief Dov Weisglass reportedly will meet with the PA´s top negotiator Saeb Erekat on Thursday ahead of a visit to the region by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Weisglass held talks with Rice in Washington on Monday.

Rice said that Washington would be working with the two parties over the next several months "to push forward toward the date when we have a two-state solution."

"I don´t think any of us doubt that without a Palestinian state that is viable, that can represent the aspirations of the Palestinian people, that there really isn´t going to be a peace for either the Palestinian people or for the Israelis," she said.

Disengagement

The Disengagement Authority, which is dealing with compensation issues for the 8,000 Israelis due to be evacuated from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank as part of Sharon´s unilateral disengagement plan, announced on Tuesday that 38 families from two northern Gaza Strip settlements -- Elei Sinai and Nisanit -- had signed a memorandum of understanding regarding their removal from the Gaza Strip.

Israel wants things to quiet down before it pulls its forces out of Gaza but radical groups want to give the appearance that Israel is fleeing under fire.

The settlers agreed to move to a community outside the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon where each family will be given 0.5 dunams (about 1/8 of an acre) of land in exchange for their current property in Gaza, the statement said.

Implementation of the agreement will depend on the passage of a law in the Knesset regarding compensation packages, it said.

According to the statement, the Disengagement Authority is involved in "advanced negotiations with additional groups of settlers" regarding their move to communities in the Ashkelon area.

The statement comes two days after tens of thousands of anti- disengagement demonstrators gathered in Jerusalem, calling on the prime minister to agree to hold a referendum on his plan. They insist that a majority of Israelis are opposed to the disengagement plan for a variety of reasons.

The following day the pro-disengagement camp announced it would hold a counter-demonstration in Tel Aviv, saying that the majority has already decided that it wants Israel to leave the Gaza Strip. (copyright 1998-2005 Cybercast News Service. 02/01/05)


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