Abbas meets Hamas leaders and sends Dahlan to talk with Israelis; Powell to arrive on Friday
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas met with Palestinian resistance leaders Tuesday to try to negotiate an end to attacks on Israelis.
Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a prominent Hamas leader, said Tuesday that the group was only considering an end to attacks on Israeli civilians inside Israel, and would in any case continue targeting soldiers and Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, a formulation Israel rejects.
The Palestinian groups have also demanded Israel stop its assassinations of their leaders and other military strikes, release prisoners and withdraw to positions held before the outbreak of fighting in September 2000.
Israeli officials are demanding Abbas crack down on the groups.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Colin Powell was to travel to Israel on Friday, reports said. Speaking en route to Cambodia, he backed Israel's demand for a crackdown.
Ultimately, Hamas and other "terrorist organizations will not only have to stop these terrorist attacks. We have to eliminate their capability to do so," he said. "We have to come down hard on organizations such as Hamas."
In another development, Israel's Major General Amos Gilad met Tuesday night with Palestinian Authority Minister for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan.
The talks apparently ended with no consequential agreements, after the Palestinians stated their refusal to commit to a time-table for accepting security responsibility in the northern Gaza Strip, because of the delay in reaching a cease-fire agreement with the Palestinian factions, Israel public TV reported.
Israeli officials said they offered to withdraw their forces from most of the Gaza Strip and at least one West Bank town. But a senior Palestinian security source said that Israel's withdrawal plan consisted of nothing more than moving a few tanks out of the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun.
The Palestinians wanted Israel to remove roadblocks and troops from the main roads in Gaza Strip so residents would feel an immediate improvement in their quality of life, but they refused, the source said, according to AP. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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