Peres Says Mitchell Plan Could Help End ‘Violence’
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Tuesday that a four-step plan for resuming peace talks in the Middle East proposed by former US senator George Mitchell could be a basis for ending 'violence' in the region, reported Reuters.
Sounding more positive on the report by Mitchell's committee than Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Peres told a news conference in Berlin that Israel would try to implement its findings.
"There is the Mitchell report, which suggests a sequence, how to do it in four steps," Peres said, describing these as ending the violence, taking confidence-building measures, allowing a cooling-off period, and returning to negotiations.
"We accept it. We are trying to realize it," Peres said.
"We are trying to bring an end to the shooting because under fire it is difficult to conduct negotiations.
"Maybe we can really reach an understanding based on the Mitchell report, on most of its consequences, and even many of the items in the Jordanian-Egyptian proposal," he added, referring to recommendations made by the two Arab nations.
"It's very complicated," Peres said, speaking in English.
"The psychological mistrust is deep and growing, but in spite of it, we did not lose hope and we shall continue to work for peace."
Peres, who was attending a conference of European Socialist Democrats in Berlin, said the government was seeking a solution to the problem of the growth of existing settlements after its decision to stop the building of new settlements, said Reuters.
MITCHELL URGES US TO REMAIN INVOLVED IN MIDEAST
In the same context, Mitchell on Monday urged the United States to remain actively engaged in the quest for Middle East peace, said Reuters.
"I don't think there can be peace in the Middle East without an active role by the United States, and I think the administration is acting on that premise as well," Mitchell told public television's "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer."
He lauded the active interest taken in the region by US Secretary of State Colin Powell, and cited a growing recognition by the Bush administration that Washington could not disengage from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite early signals that it planned a less hands-on approach.
"I think the administration will increasingly be active, and I think they recognize there can't be peace in the Middle East that is durable and sustainable without active American participation and support," said Mitchell, a Democrat from Maine and former US Senate Democratic leader.
Mitchell, who helped broker peace in Northern Ireland, said he contacted Powell after he took office to allow the Bush administration to withdraw support for the Mitchell Commission, which was created under former president Bill Clinton. But Mitchell said Powell assured him the administration wanted the panel to complete its report.
In its report, completed last week, the five-man commission led by Mitchell called for an immediate and unconditional cessation of violence and resumption of security cooperation. Calling for confidence-building measures, it urged Israel to lift an economically-crippling "closure" of Palestinian areas and for its army to use "non-lethal responses to unarmed demonstrators."
The report also called on the Palestinian Authority to take concrete actions against violence and terror punish perpetrators.
Israel and the Palestinians have described the findings of the US-led commission as positive, although each side has expressed reservations about specific recommendations.
The US is reserving comment until the report is formally published after a response period ends May 15.
'HASAN QADI BRIGADES' CLAIM RESPONSIBILITY FOR SETTLER'S KILLING IN WEST BANK
A previously unknown group called the 'Hassan Qadi Brigades' claimed responsibility Tuesday for killing a Jewish settler overnight near the settlement of Itamar in the West Bank, reported the Jerusalem Post newspaper.
The paper said that the group was a faction of Fateh movement.
The group said the killing was in revenge for "Israel's assassination of Hassan Qadi last week in Ramallah."
Settler Aryeh Orlando was shot dead while he was guarding empty caravans near Itamar.
Israeli security forces said they found footprints leading to a nearby Palestinian village, according to the paper.
The Itamar outpost was one of dozens set up by settlers in the West Bank in the months after the government of Benjamin Netanyahu signed the Wye agreement in October 1998 with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
The shooting followed the deaths of three Palestinians on Monday and brought the toll in nearly seven months of violence to 408 Palestinians, 13 Israeli Arabs and 77 other Israelis.
Meanwhile, the United States criticized Israel on Monday over incursions into Palestinian-ruled areas, as the Israeli navy announced the capture of a boatload of arms that it said proved Palestinians were bent on escalating the violence, said Reuters.
"Repeated Israeli incursions into the Palestinian-controlled areas are a serious escalation (raising) concerns that make it harder to resolve this and harder to break the cycle," US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Monday.
Israeli troops thrust briefly into the Palestinian West Bank town of Tulkarm late on Sunday night, officials said.
On Monday, Palestinian security sources said Israeli army bulldozers had penetrated 200 meters (yards) into the village of Al Khuzaa in Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip to demolish farmland before retreating.
But the Israeli army denied the report, according to Haaretz.
Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer has given the army the green light to enter Palestinian-run lands when it sees fit while fighting an uprising against Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"It is the right of the commander of the operation, when he is caught in fire, to undertake pursuit. But it is entrance (out of) necessity, for the performance of the operation and immediate exit," Ben-Eliezer said.
BEN-ELIEZER: PALESTINIANS PREPARING FOR WAR
After Israel announced the seizure of a weapons-laden boat heading to Gaza, Ben-Eliezer pointed an accusing finger at what he called Palestinian preparations for war, said the Israeli paper.
"This matter makes a laughing stock of all the agreements and all the promises and everything (the Palestinians) have committed to. As we say every day, 'Come back to the negotiating table', they are organizing for war.
"That is escalation... (It) doesn't leave room for doubt where they are heading," he told the paper.
For his part, Sharon told foreign reporters Tuesday the ship, Santorini, had succeeded three times in bringing weapon shipments to the Gaza Strip.
According to him, there are Katyushas in Gaza.
The Israeli media quote defense sources as confirming there are already Katyushas in the West Bank.
Sharon added this is a dangerous development and severe violation to the accords on the part of the PNA.
Sharon announced that information on the fourth trip of Santorini are based on interrogation with one of its arrested crew member
In Berlin for meetings with German leaders, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres agreed that Palestinian provocation was behind the bloodshed, said Reuters.
"We don't initiate (the violence), we react. The minute they initiate a stop (of the violence), there won't be any reactions whatsoever. It doesn't bring us any pleasure (moving into Palestinian-ruled areas)," Peres said.
The Israeli navy said a dissident pro-Syrian Palestinian group had intended to step up attacks on Israel by smuggling Katyusha rockets, rocket-propelled grenades, mines and anti-aircraft missiles by ship into Gaza.
Explosive materials, mortars and Kalashnikov assault rifles were also found on the ship when it was seized off northern Israel's Mediterranean coast, it said.
"The sender, as far as we can tell... is the Jebril organization," Navy Commander Major General Yadidiah Ya'ari said, referring to Ahmed Jebril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, a Damascus-based group.
Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo denied the Palestinian Authority or the Palestine Liberation Organization were involved in the arms shipment, Haaretz quoted him as saying.
"We are not responsible for his actions and anyway, (Ahmed) Jebril is hostile and a rival to the Palestinian Authority and the PLO," Abed Rabbo said.
THREE PALESTINIANS KILLED MONDAY BY ISRAELI FIRE
On Monday, Israeli gunfire killed a four-month-old Palestinian girl and a Palestinian police officer in violence that added urgency to an appeal in Syria by Pope John Paul for peace in the Holy Land.
Another Palestinian man died of wounds suffered in a gunbattle on Sunday-Monday night.
Doctors said baby, Inam Hijjo, was inside her house when it was hit during an Israeli attack on Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza.
Palestinian witnesses said an Israeli tank had fired several shells at Khan Younis.
"The baby was killed in her house during the Israeli shelling of Khan Younis refugee camp," said Dr Muhammed Salama, director-general of the emergency medicine department in the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza City.
The Israeli army said "in response to mortar bomb fire on the Neve Dekalim settlement, the Israeli army fired light weapons at Khan Younis."
PLO Fateh movement has announced an emergency meeting Monday night in the Gaza Strip in the wake of the baby's death.
According to a senior Fateh source, quoted by the Post, "Fateh will study new ways to respond to the Israeli escalation."
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon apologized for the baby's death, expressing "sorrow," said Haaretz.
"I am sure that our forces had no intention [of harming a baby]," Sharon told members of his Likud faction. "I am really sorry for that and I am sure that we will make every effort to try to avoid a tragic case like this. Children and babies should not be involved in this terrible war that we want to end."
The Israeli army said its forces fired light weapons at the camp in response to mortar bombs fired at a Jewish settlement. No one was hurt in the mortar bomb attack.
In the West Bank, Israeli troops shot dead 22-year-old Lieutenant Murad Al Hrosh and wounded two of his colleagues, one critically, as they manned an outpost outside Al Sammou village near Hebron, Palestinian security and hospital sources said.
The Palestinian sources said Israeli troops tried to enter Palestinian-ruled territory at the village checkpoint, triggering a clash with Palestinian national police in which Hrosh was hit by five bullets.
The Israeli army said it was checking the report, according to Reuters - Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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