Israeli Soldiers Open Fire on Palestinian Convoy, Injure Three Body Guards
Three Palestinian guards were lightly injured early Thursday in the Gaza Strip when Israeli soldiers opened fire on Palestinian security officials and their body guards who took part in a meeting between top Israeli and Palestinian security officials in Tel Aviv overnight, said reports.
In the convoy were Gaza preventive security chief, Mohammed Dahlan, intelligence chief Amin Hindi and police commander Abdel Razek Majaideh, said Haaretz newspaper.
The Palestinians announced that the soldiers initiated the fire, while Israeli officials insisted that they had returned fire after shots were fired from the convoy, according to Haaretz.
The meeting, the highest-level security encounter since hardline Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon took office, was held under US sponsorship in a secret location on Israeli soil.
"It was a deliberate attack after our meeting in the Tel Aviv region with an Israeli delegation," Dahlan told journalists after the incident near Erez, the main crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, Haaretz reported that Israeli and Palestinian security chiefs made little progress at the meeting.
Dahlan said the meeting was difficult and that no agreements were achieved.
He said the Palestinians demanded that Israel remove its restrictions on the Palestinians, withdraw tanks from around West Bank cities and stop the practice of targeted killing of Palestinian activists, according to the Israeli paper.
Israel Radio quoted an Israeli official as saying that the two sides had only reached a general conclusion to make efforts to reduce the violence and that they would meet again next week.
Danny Naveh, an Israeli cabinet minister without portfolio, said that instant results could not be expected, but that the very fact that the meeting took place was a "positive step."
The key question, he told Israel Radio, was whether Palestinian President Yasser Arafat would issue an order to his security forces to end the violence.
Israeli Arab MK Ahmad Tibi told the paper that "there was no agreement" reached at the meeting. "I still don't want to create any optimism."
Tibi emphasised that renewal of security cooperation had to go in tandem with a resumption of peace talks and the lifting of the closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Among those taking part in the talks were Dahlan and his counterpart in the West Bank, Jibril Rjoub, and the head of Israel's internal security service Avi Dichter as well as the commanders of the center and south military regions, Generals Yitzhak Eytan and Doron Almog, said The Jerusalem Post newspaper.
American representatives were also present, said the Post.
"This is the first sign that there is truly an intention to stop shooting and start talking," Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told Israeli army radio from Athens, where he met Palestinian ministers Saeb Erakat and Nabil Shaath.
A resumption of security coordination could lead to a cease-fire that would open a window of opportunity for renewed negotiations, Peres was quoted by the Post as saying.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Arafat's deputy, Mahmoud Abbas, said that political negotiations should be carried out in conjunction with discussions over the security situation, according to the Post. "It's impossible that security talks or cooperation will take place without negotiations over a final-status agreement, that guarantees the existence of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital," he said. "We won't agree to an interim accord."
The meeting between security chiefs on both sides follows a day that saw tit-for-tat mortar attacks and scattered clashes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip - Albawaba.com
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