Violence in Middle East as US envoys arrive

An Israeli soldier was killed in a mortar attack in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, the same day that a 14-year-old Palestinian civilian was shot dead by Israeli soldiers near Bethlehem, Cisjordan, during a protest launched by Hamas.

Hamas has claimed the responsibility for the suicide bomb attack which slightly wounded two Israeli soldiers on Monday morning at the border checkpoint of Erez, also in the Gaza strip. The protest and attacks come as a reaction to the killing of Mahmud Abu Hanoud, a Hamas activist, by an Israeli helicopter-launched missile last Friday.

On Monday, Israel also imprisoned 15 Palestinians, accused of being members of a terrorist organisation with links to Baghdad, in the cities of Ramallah and Jenin, in Cisjordan. Iraq denies the allegations as a fabrication.

Two US officials arrive in Israel on Monday for talks on how to implement the Tenet plan, drawn up by the US Special Envoy George Tenet five months ago. The officials are the Under-Secretary of state William Burns and reserve General Anthony Zinni. Under the Tenet plan, Israel is to stop invading Palestine Authority areas and cease the practice of politically motivated murders, allowing Palestine Authority residents to move freely within their areas.

The Palestinians are to stop attacking Israeli targets, such as the colonies which were built on the lands which were stolen from them, to confiscate illegally-held weapons and imprison the terrorists living within the Palestine Authority areas.

The Palestinians demand that the US envoys establish a timetable for the practical implementation of measures, the withdrawal of Israeli troops from all Palestine Authority lands and that acts of provocation by the Israeli armed forces cease.

The US envoys will meet Israeli prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. Yasser Arafat, who is touring Arab Nations, will not be in the area until Wednesday.

It is claimed by some analysts that it is not in the interests of Sharon’s government to sign a quick peace deal, since his Cabinet is geared towards conflict. During a time of peace negotiations, it is feared that a split may form and that the Likud-led coalition government may fall.


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