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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
31 May 2003



Division for Palestinian Rights

Chronological Review of Events Relating to the
Question of Palestine

MONTHLY MEDIA MONITORING REVIEW

May 2003


1

Twelve Palestinians were killed when Israeli forces entered the Shijaia neighbourhood outside Gaza City to detain wanted militants. According to residents of Shijaia, Israeli tanks and infantry backed by helicopter gunships laid siege to a four-story apartment building, where a Hamas militant, Youssef Abu Heen, lived. Heavy fighting between soldiers and gunmen erupted, and tanks fired shells and helicopters launched missiles at the building. Among those killed were eight gunmen, two adult civilians, including a mentally handicapped, and two boys, aged 2 and 13. The father of the two-year- old said his son had been killed by a bullet to the head as the toddler stood near a window facing Israeli troops. Sixty-five Palestinians were wounded, of when 15 were in critical condition. The IDF said eight soldiers had been wounded. (AP, DPA, Reuters)

Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles entered Rafah to protect two bulldozers that had razed seven houses. The IDF issued a statement on the operation. (DPA,www.idf.il)

Israeli soldiers killed two Palestinian gunmen and injured two villagers in Yatta near Hebron during a raid to arrest militants. Dozens of villagers were arrested during the raid. (DPA, Reuters)

Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a statement voiced deep concern over the Israeli incursions into Gaza, stressing that they violated international humanitarian law and contradicted the international community’s latest efforts to restart the peace process. (UN News Service)

The IDF said in a statement that it had demolished a house in Beit Sira, west of Ramallah, belonging to Hitam Al-Mutfak Halil Hamdan, who had carried out shooting attacks on Israelis in August and September 2001. (www.idf.il)

A Tel Aviv court convicted Nasser Awis, a Fatah leader in Nablus, of the murder of 14 Israelis in attacks in Hadera, Netanya, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The prosecution demanded Mr. Awis be given 14 life sentences. Sentencing was scheduled for 5 May 2003. (DPA, Ha’aretz)

US Secretary of State Powell would travel to the region “once the new Palestinian Cabinet has had the opportunity to begin its work,” the State Department said. According to Israeli diplomatic sources, Secretary Powell would meet Prime Minister Sharon and other Israeli officials on 9 May before holding talks in Ramallah with Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and his new Cabinet. (AFP,www.state.gov) Secretary Powell, after meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio in Madrid, said it was “premature” to talk about another Middle East peace conference. (DPR, Reuters)

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhang Qiyue spoke on the presentation of the Road Map: “China welcomes and supports the official release of the Road Map, hoping that Palestine and Israel can seize the favourable opportunity by taking effective measures and actively coordinate peacemaking efforts of parties interested to implement the plan at an early date so that the question of Palestine can be resolved at an early date and lasting peace and stability can prevail in the Middle East.” (DPA, Reuters,www.fmprc.gov.cn)

The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) said in a statement faxed to news agencies in Damascus: “The implementation of the [Road Map] is based on successive rather than parallel steps by both sides, thus leaving control in the hands of the Government of Sharon … We urge the Government of Abu Mazen to hold a real dialogue to determine a unified Palestinian stance and pursue a unified Palestinian policy to reject the pre-set security terms of the [Road Map].” The statement continued: “The [Road Map] is unbalanced. It imposes security conditions on the Palestinian side that would lead to the elimination of the uprising and national resistance before Israel stops the expansion of settlements.” (DPA, Reuters)

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt said that sidelining Chairman Arafat could threaten the Road Map. “Whoever wants to thwart efforts to solve the problem will do so by distancing Abu Ammar (Arafat) from the issue,” he said. Asked if a trip by Prime Minister Abbas to Washington would help the peace plan’s implementation, he said: “He must establish his foundations domestically first, and win the confidence of his people. After that he can start to make his moves.” (Reuters)

The United States urged Israel to exercise restraint after 12 Palestinians had been killed during an Israeli raid into Gaza the day before. While recognizing Israel’s “right to self-defence” in response to suicide bombings, State Department spokesperson Jo-Anne Prokopowicz said: “We urge the Israeli Government to take all appropriate precautions to prevent the death or injury of innocent civilians and damage to civilian and humanitarian infrastructure. This includes exercising restraint in undertaking operations in civilian areas.” (Reuters)

Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, released a statement on the presentation of the Road Map after meeting with Israeli and Palestinian representatives in Brussels. Mr. Solana will leave on 11 May for a week-long trip to Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. (AFP)

Israeli forces killed a Palestinian gunman who had opened fire at an IDF position in the “Hermesh” settlement north-west of Nablus. (www.idf.il)

The IDF demolished the houses of Mahmoud Amin Mahmoud Ulmah and Azhar Assan Abu Hit in Beit Fourik, south- east of Nablus. The two carried out a shooting attack near the “Elon Moreh” settlement on 29 April 2003. (www.idf.il)

2

On the sidelines of an Informal General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting on Rhodes, Greece, Greek EU presidency sources said: “The Road Map has been presented and we must now work towards its implementation … We are sending Israel and the United States a clear message that this plan must be implemented without any conditions because no changes will be made.” Sources also said the EU Foreign Ministers had unanimously agreed that Chairman Arafat was a necessary player in the peace process. (DPA)

According to Ha’aretz, Chairman Arafat ordered the establishment of a National Security Council to oversee all the Palestinian Authority’s security mechanisms, including the counter-security apparatus, the uniformed police and the civil guard. The Council will reportedly include Chairman Arafat, Prime Minister Abbas, Minister of State for Security Affairs Dahlan, Minister of Finance Fayyad, Chairman Arafat’s personal security adviser Hani Al-Hassan, and Palestinian national security forces commander Brigadier-General Haj Ismail Jabar. Tawfik Al-Tirawi and Faisel Abu Sarah, whose security agencies (General Intelligence and Force 17) remain under Chairman Arafat, will also be on the Council. (Ha’aretz)

Israel will from now on bar pro-Palestinian activists from entering the country and will try to expel at least some of the dozens of activists who are already in the country, according to a new plan drafted by the IDF and the Foreign and Defence Ministries. Most of the activists belong to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). In the first sign of the new policy, a member of the ISM was detained by Israeli troops in Rafah. According to military sources, the woman activist was sleeping in a house suspected of concealing one of the tunnels used by militants to smuggle arms from Egypt. British newspapers reported that a British Muslim suicide bomber and a suspected British accomplice involved in a bombing in Tel Aviv on 30 April had entered Israel from Gaza posing as peace activists. The two had taken part in actions carried out by peace activists in Gaza just days before the bombing. (DPA, the Guardian, Ha’aretz, The Independent, Reuters)

In a poll published in the Ma’arivdaily, 52 per cent of respondents said Israel should adopt the Road Map, as opposed to 20 per cent who said it should reject it and 28 per cent who were undecided. Some 70 per cent said that, provided Palestinians fulfilled their commitments under the plan, Israel should agree to the demand to withdraw its troops to positions occupied prior to the outbreak of the intifada in September 2000. Some 72 per cent said Israel should also dismantle unauthorized settlement outposts in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. About 61 per cent said construction in existing settlements should be completely frozen. Some 54 per cent said they would agree to the establishment of a Palestinian State with temporary borders. The poll also found that 46 per cent supported the appointment of Mahmoud Abbas as the Palestinian Prime Minister, while 21 per cent opposed it. Half of respondents believed the new Palestinian Government would not take on Palestinian militants. Another 26 per cent thought Mr. Abbas would crack down on the militants, and 24 per cent were undecided. The poll was conducted among 606 adults and had a 4 per cent margin of error. (DPA)

A British cameraman, James Miller, 35, was shot dead as he was filming Israeli forces demolishing a house in Rafah suspected of concealing an arms-smuggling tunnel. He was reportedly hit in the neck during an exchange of fire that erupted after the Israeli forces had come under fire from small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. Witnesses said the cameraman had been shot by Israeli forces, but Colonel Avi Levi, deputy commander of the Gaza battalion involved in the incident, said it was possible he had been hit by a Palestinian gunman. (AFP, Reuters)

4

A 13-year-old Palestinian, Zahid Jazzi, was killed and six other youths were injured during a stone-throwing demonstration in Nablus. The IDF said troops had shot at two youths, one who had climbed onto an armoured vehicle and another who had thrown a petrol bomb, but said it did not know whether they had been hit. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Two members of the Islamic Jihad, Fares Hassan and Izz ad-Din Hamid, were arrested in the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem. Israeli security sources told Israel Radiothat the two had been preparing a suicide bombing to be carried out in Jerusalem in the next few days. (AFP, DPA)

An IDF spokesman said the army had arrested 24 Palestinians in Beit Omar, including several Hamas members. (AFP)

Israeli forces opened fire on a British Embassy convoy and held it at gunpoint in Gaza as the convoy went through the Abu Houli crossing, British newspapers reported. A bullet passed narrowly over the top of the two armoured vehicles bearing diplomatic plates, but no one was injured. The convoy was carrying British diplomats and the family of a British peace activist left in a coma by an Israeli bullet in April 2003. The activist, Tom Hurndall, 21, had been trying to save a 5-year-old girl in Rafah when five Israeli snipers shot him in the head. (The Guardian, The Independent)

Israeli Public Radio reported that Prime Minster Sharon had told a Cabinet meeting of his intention to personally head negotiations with the Palestinians. Israeli Government sources confirmed that Mr. Sharon would meet Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas the following week. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Williams Burns, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, met with Prime Minister Sharon, Foreign Minister Shalom and Defence Minister Mofaz. In the talks, Mr. Sharon ruled out any ceasefire with Palestinian militant groups and called for the destruction of their infrastructures, an Israeli Government source said. Mr. Burns said President Bush and Secretary of State Powell envisaged steps that Israel could consider in its own self-interest to reinforce important steps on the Palestinian side to act decisively against violence. In talks with Mr. Mofaz, Mr. Burns renewed a US call for Israel to ease living conditions for the Palestinian population. Mr. Mofaz had said before the meeting that Israel would not change its tactics, including reoccupying the West Bank and targeting militants in raids, until Mr. Abbas started to deliver on pledges to curb the violence. (Reuters)

According to a report prepared by international donors, a separation wall that Israel was building in the West Bank was located as much as 6 kilometres inside the West Bank, and as many as 12,000 Palestinians could be left on the western, Israel-facing, side of the wall, cut off from their land, workplaces and essential social services when the construction was completed. The report had been researched and written by a team of experts under the direction of the Local Aid Coordination Committee’s (LACC) Humanitarian and Emergency Policy Group, which includes the European Union, Norway, the United States, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, and the World Bank. (UN News Service)

5

The IDF said it had demolished the house of Tariq Gudat Hafez Agrabiyah, who had carried out an attack on Israelis near Hebron in January 2003. (www.idf.il)

The IDF said it had arrested seven wanted Palestinians throughout the West Bank and another in the Gaza Strip. (www.idf.il)

Colonel Suleiman Abu Mutlak of the Palestinian preventive security was arrested by the IDF at a checkpoint near the “Gush Katif” settlement in the Gaza Strip. (AFP)

Assistant Secretary of State Williams Burns met with Prime Minister Abbas in Ramallah. After the meeting, Mr. Burns said President Bush was determined to “seize the real opportunity” presented by Mr. Abbas’s appointment and the unveiling of the Road Map and would “work aggressively and energetically toward a two-State solution, envisaging the Road Map as a starting point.” Mr. Burns also said that “for the Palestinians, there [was] no substitute for a decisive fight against terror and violence” and that for the Israelis, “taking practical steps to ease the situation of the Palestinian people and stopping settlement activities” were likewise vital. (AFP)

Israel Public Radio reported that Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan would meet Defence Minister Mofaz the following week. (AFP)

United States State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said Secretary Powell would leave Washington on 9 May to visit Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and others. (Reuters)

Envoys of the Quartet held a meeting in Tel Aviv to discuss how to move ahead with the implementation of the Road Map. Those who attended the meeting were UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Terje Rød-Larsen, Russian Envoy Andrei Vdovin, EU Envoy Miguel Moratinos and US Assistant Secretary of State William Burns. (UN News Service)

Defence Minister Mofaz decided to delay the removal of 10 settler outposts slated for dismantlement while “waiting to have the legal status [of the outposts] clarified.” (AFP,DPA)

An Israeli settler, Gideon Lichterman, 27, was killed by Palestinian gunmen while driving near the “Shvut Rahel” settlement, midway between Nablus and Ramallah. His six-year-old daughter and another passenger aged 25 were critically injured in the attack. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades in a leaflet claimed responsibility for the attack. (DPAA, Ha’aretz)

Israeli Tourism Minister Benny Elon, visiting the United States to urge right-wing Christian groups to oppose the Road Map, was expected to present his ideas in New York and Washington on the peace plan. A statement released by the Israeli Government said Mr. Elon would discuss “the danger a Palestinian State west of the Jordan River poses to the State of Israel.” Mr. Elon said in a statement: “A Palestinian State in the heartland of the land of Israel will be a disaster to both the Jewish State as well as the Palestinians … I wish to explain by means of facts and maps that the ‘peace’ that the Road Map envisages cannot be achieved.” (AFP)

6

Two Palestinians were wounded when Israeli troops in about 15 armoured vehicles raided the Tulkarm refugee camp, spraying gunfire, and imposed a curfew. (AFP)

Nur Jabr, 28, a local leader of the Islamic Jihad in Hebron, was arrested, according to residents. (AFP)

Israeli paratroopers entered the village of Jaba, between Jenin and Nablus, and dynamited a bomb-making factory where they had found detonators, explosive charges, nails and bolts. (AFP)

Zalman Shoval, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Sharon, said: “If the Palestinians want us to recognize, even in principle, Palestinian statehood … we will demand of them … that they abolish once and for all [their demand for] the right of return, which is a euphemism for the destruction of Israel.” Mr. Shoval also said Israel would not move forward on the Road Map until Mr. Sharon explained his reservations to President Bush at a White House meeting expected within a month. (AP)

The Egyptian news agency MENA reported that Fatah would resume talks with other Palestinian factions in Cairo within days. A Fatah official told Reuters that no date had been set yet but said talks were crucial to “face the political challenges that [lay] ahead.” A Hamas leader, Abdel-Aziz Rantissi, said: “Until now, the movement has not received an official invitation from either Cairo or anyone else, including Fatah. I just don’t see the atmosphere appropriate for dialogue.” (Reuters)

After meeting with Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad in Brussels, European Union External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten said that the European Union was “rock solid” in its determination to continue long-standing assistance programmes to the Palestinian Authority. “We remain absolutely committed to supporting the Palestinian Authority … It is an important contribution we can make to the peace process.” He also said that European Union aid to the Palestinians would continue to be subject to “sensible and strict” conditions, adding: “We are monitoring progress in the implementation of these reforms.” Mr. Patten warned that a separation barrier being built by Israel in the West Bank would hurt individual Palestinians and the economy as a whole, saying: “We are trying to create a viable [Palestinian] State, not a Mickey Mouse State.” (DPA)

The Israeli Navy arrested two men on board a Palestinian fishing vessel that had strayed too close to the “Dugit” settlement on the Gaza coast. Fearing the small craft might be rigged with explosives, the Israeli sailors then fired on it and blew it up. An Israeli security official said that from the size of the explosion, it appeared the craft had not been booby-trapped. (AFP)

Palestinians fired seven mortar shells at the “Neve Dekalim” settlement in the Gaza Strip during settlers’ Independence Day celebrations. One of the shells landed near the celebrants, but there were no injuries. (Ha’aretz, Israel Broadcasting Authority)

The Israeli authorities closed the Rafah crossing for an “indefinite period,” citing “security reasons,” an Egyptian official said. (AFP)

Prime Minister Abbas announced at a Fatah Central Committee meeting that he was transferring the Interior Minister’s responsibilities to Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan, Israel Radio reported. (Ha’aretz, IBA)

After meeting with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana said the Quartet would meet in about two weeks. Diplomats said the meeting would take place on the fringes of the G8 summit to be held in Evian, France, from 1 to 3 June 2003. Asked how strong a political role Europeans would take in the peace process, Mr. Solana said: “The Road Map does not belong to Country A or Country B. The Road Map is the product of a coalition.” (Reuters)

7

A Hamas member, Amin Fadel, 28, was killed in an explosion in an apartment in the village of Zawata, north-west of Nablus. He had been sought by Israel for two years on suspicion of involvement in attacks on Israelis. A Hamas source said soldiers had opened fire at the building. Other Palestinian sources said the explosion was likely the result of a “work accident.” The mayor of Zawata said Israeli troops had imposed a curfew on the village several hours before the explosion. Local firefighters said the blast had gone off inside the house, ruling out a missile strike. An IDF source said that the army had no connection to the explosion. (Ha’aretz, IBA, The Jerusalem Post)

An 18-month-old baby, Alian Bashiti, was killed by Israeli troops in the Khan Yunis refugee camp during an exchange of fire. He was shot in the head while he was at home, Palestinian doctors said. The IDF said that Palestinian gunmen had opened fire at soldiers guarding the nearby army post near the “Neve Dekalim” settlement and the troops had returned fire. (Ha’aretz, IBA, The Jerusalem Post)

Ma’ariv reported United States satellites were checking how Israel was fulfilling its peace plan obligations to freeze settlement expansion and dismantle outposts in the West Bank. “Every few days American satellites photograph areas in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) in order to ascertain that Israel is fulfilling Road Map conditions … Defence Ministry officials asked Judea and Samaria (West Bank) leaders to stop setting up new outposts without government approval in order to avoid further pressure from the Americans,” Ma’ariv said. The daily also said that the Israeli Government had promised settler leaders that some of the outposts would be “legalized” if others were dismantled. (AFP)

United States Secretary of State Colin Powell wass scheduled to meet Prime Minister Abbas and Minister of Negotiations Affairs Erakat on 11 May. Chairman Arafat was to convene the Palestine Liberation Organization's Central Committee on the same day to decide on the Palestinian stand to be presented to Mr. Powell. (Ha’aretz)

The Horizons Centre for Study and Training, a Palestinian non-governmental organization, conducted a poll in the Gaza Strip. Over half of the residents polled, 58.7 per cent, expressed pessimism about the prospects of the new Palestinian Cabinet reaching a peace settlement with Israel. Nearly two thirds favoured an end to attacks on Israel in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Centre said that a total of 60 per cent of those surveyed wanted an end to attacks on Israel. Thirty-three percent said attacks on Israel should be increased, while 24.5 percent agreed that the peace process should be speeded up. Only 9 percent called for a complete end to the intifada. The poll questioned 700 respondents at the beginning of May 2003. (IBA)

UNRWA issued a press release saying that from September 2000 until 30 April 2003, 12,737 Palestinians had seen their homes demolished in Gaza and the West Bank. Recent months had seen a sharp increase in house demolitions in the Gaza Strip. As of the end of 2002, total and partial demolitions had averaged under 30 per month. In the first three months of 2003, 221 shelters had been demolished or damaged beyond repair – making an average of 74 a month. These alone housed 401 families (2,273 persons). (UNRWA press release HQ/G/05/2003)

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan officially transmitted the Quartet’s Road Map to the President of the Security Council. (UN document S/2003/529)

Palestinian Authority Minister for External Affairs Nabil Sha’ath said he had been assured by European and Russian envoys that they considered Mr. Arafat to be the leader of the Palestinian people, and would not agree to a diplomatic boycott of him. Mr. Shaath said that Russian envoy Andrei Vdovin and EU envoy Miguel Moratinos had stressed in their meeting with him the need to implement the Road Map as soon as possible. (IBA)

8

IDF troops shot and killed a Palestinian youth after he had failed to stop at a checkpoint at the “Neve Dekalim” settlement, west of Khan Yunis. (AFP, BBC, Ha’aretz)

In northern Gaza City two Israeli helicopter gunships fired three missiles at a car, killing a Palestinian who was a member of Hamas. Responding to the attack, Hamas spokesman Abdel Aziz Rantissi warned there would be “severe reprisals.” (AFP, BBC, DPA, Deutsche Welle (DW), Ha’aretz, IBA, Reuters)

Two armed Palestinians were killed trying to attack an IDF post next to the “Kfar Darom” settlement in the Gaza Strip. (Ha’aretz)

An autopsy conducted at Israel’s Abu Kabir Forensics Institute proved that British cameraman James Miller, killed in Rafah on 3 May, had been killed by IDF and not by Palestinian gunfire as suggested by the IDF. The autopsy showed that he had been shot from the front, and not from behind, as the IDF had claimed. He was wearing a helmet and a flack jacket, but was hit in the neck. (AFP, BBC, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

The Road Map risked failure because it almost completely ignored basic human rights issues, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report entitled “The roadmap: repeating Oslo's human rights mistakes.” HRW warned that ignoring basic human rights and international humanitarian law had been the fatal flaw which had undermined all previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. The report also warned that the current framework was “a recipe for abuse” which could severely undermine public confidence in the plan and eventually cause the entire process to collapse. “The current framework, where the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other security forces monitor security progress, has been shown to fail in the past. It's a recipe for abuse,” Hanny Megally, Executive Director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa Division, said in a statement. One of the issues entirely missing from the report was a commitment on both sides to investigate and bring to justice individuals who commit serious abuses, such as unlawful killings or deliberate attacks against civilians, the report said. Another area of concern was that where human rights standards were actually mentioned, they were considered political benchmarks, which could be subject to negotiation, rather than binding obligations. (AFP, BBC)

During a meeting with the Emir of Qatar in the Oval Office, President Bush said he was optimistic about making progress towards Middle East peace despite Israeli-Palestinian violence shortly before a weekend visit to the region by Secretary of State Colin Powell. He added that a concerted effort was needed to stop the violence so that the peace process, as outlined in the Road Map, could proceed. (Reuters)

The United States criticized Israel for the assassination of a Hamas activist in the Gaza Strip earlier in the day, saying that such measures were an obstacle to peace. While Israel had the right to defend itself, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, such “targeted killings” made it harder to achieve peace. “We urge the Israeli Government to take all appropriate precautions to prevent the death or injury of innocent civilians, damage to civilian and humanitarian infrastructure, to consider the consequences of their actions and refrain from actions that adversely impact the ability of Palestinians to lead lives in as normal a manner as possible,” he said. (Ha’aretz)

An armed Palestinian in an explosives-laden car was killed near the settlement of “Kfar Darom” in the central Gaza Strip while attempting to blow up an IDF tank, after at least one Palestinian had opened fire at a group of soldiers. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. In retaliation, the Israeli army demolished a building of the Palestinian National Security and several adjacent houses in the town of Deir al-Balah, north of “Kfar Darom,” in retaliation. The Mayor of Deir al-Balah said 45 people living in eight demolished houses had been rendered homeless. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz)

Israel Radio reported at night that IDF troops were conducting operations in Tulkarm and its refugee camp, which had been under curfew for a third day. IDF troops north of Nablus fatally shot a 40-year-old Palestinian man transporting merchandise on a donkey. Five Palestinian youths were wounded by IDF troops firing at stone-throwers in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus. (IBA, Ha’aretz)

9

Four Palestinians wanted by Israel were arrested in Bethlehem and Hebron. (Ha’aretz)

Israel Radio reported that Palestinians had fired six Qassam rockets at Israel. A woman and a six-year-old girl were slightly hurt and three others were treated for shock when two of the rockets landed in the southern Israeli town of Sderot. (Ha’aretz)

In Beit Sahur, near Bethlehem, Israeli troops raided premises used by the Bethlehem-based International Solidarity Movement (ISM), detaining three people, the ISM said. Computers and documents were also seized. Two foreigners, an American and an Australian, were handed over to the police and questioned about allegedly entering a prohibited military zone. (The Financial Times, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Israel began obliging foreigners entering the Gaza Strip, including United Nations humanitarian workers, to sign waivers absolving the IDF from responsibility if they were killed or wounded in military activity. Under the new measures, all foreigners, including United Nations relief workers, must acknowledge they are entering an unsafe area and they must declare that they are not peace activists. The decision was condemned by Amnesty International (AI), stating in a press release: “The organization is categorically opposed to any attempt to get people to sign away their rights. The signing of 'waivers' does not absolve the Israeli army of its responsibility in any way, nor the Israeli authorities of their duties to ensure that armed forces respect human rights in all circumstances.” The organization is concerned that one aim of these new and drastic restrictions is to prevent outside monitoring and scrutiny of the conduct of the Israeli army. It is also concerned that these restrictions will lead to more killings in Gaza and calls on the army to immediately end the use of excessive and unlawful force. (AI press release MDE 15/040/2003, British Broadcasting Company, DW, the Financial Times, The Guardian, Reuters)

10

United States Secretary of State Colin Powell said that a discussion on the right of return for Palestinians was a matter that should not hold up the implementation of the Road Map, and was an issue that would be discussed between the two sides “in due course.” Speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem after meeting with Foreign Minister Shalom, Mr. Powell said there was sufficient common ground between the sides to begin the implementation of the Road Map. “There is enough agreement on the Road Map that we can get started,” Mr. Powell told a news conference in Jerusalem. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller said the Foreign Ministers of the Quartet had prepared various means of applying pressure to force Israel and the Palestinians to implement the Road Map. “We have a series of measures we will come out with at the appropriate time,” Mr. Møller said at a conference of peace activists from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan that was organized by the Jordanian Foreign Ministry. “I won't expose them now because if I were to do so, they would lose their effectiveness; but we are ready to use them if we are required to do so,” he added. According to Mr. Møller, “The Palestinian side took a significant step with the appointment of Mahmoud Abbas [Abu Mazen] to the post of prime minister, and now it's Israel's turn to take a similar step.” The Foreign Minister added that implementing the Road Map was contingent on a number of terms, including an understanding on the part of Israel that the end of the process would also mean an end to the conflict and Palestinian demands. On the other hand, he stressed that the two-State idea at the basis of the plan required that Israel evacuate the settlements. Mr. Møller also made it clear that while the Palestinian Government had to act determinedly against terror, the supervisory mechanism for the implementation of the plan had to ensure that “not every suicide [bomber] would be able to undermine the process.” (Ha’aretz)

Israel Radio reported that IDF troops operating in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun had demolished the house of a Hamas activist, Hussan Zuweidi, who was involved in launching Qassam rockets at Israel. (Ha’aretz, www.idf.il)

IDF soldiers killed a Palestinian man attempting to enter Israel illegally from the Gaza Strip at the “Kissufim” crossing. The man approached the security fence near the crossing in an area closed to Palestinians, Army Radio reported. (Albawaba.com, Ha’aretz)

According to Israeli Public Radio, Israeli and Palestinian officials held a secret high-level security meeting. Israel was represented at the meeting, the location and content of which were not given, by Major-General Amos Gilad, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. The PA was represented by Minister of Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan. (AFP, DPA)

11

The IDF captured an Islamic Jihad leader at the top of the army's wanted list, Annas Jaradat, in a home in Jenin. The army said he had been behind the car bombs at the Megiddo Junction in June 2002, in which 17 people were killed, and at the Karkur Junction in October 2002, in which 14 people were killed. (Ha’aretz)

A 53-year-old Israeli settler was killed in a shooting attack near the “Ofra” settlement, north of Ramallah. He was apparently driving to work in the area when Palestinian gunmen opened fire on his vehicle about 500 metres north of “Ofra.” Both Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for the attack. Israeli troops were operating in the West Bank village of Silwan, where the attackers were believed to have fled. (Albawaba.com, Ha’aretz, www.idf.il)

More than 60 Palestinian "administrative detention prisoners" were released from the Ketziot prison in the Negev in the morning as an Israeli “gesture” to the Palestinians. (BBC)

United States Secretary of State Colin Powell held separate meetings in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, Defence Minister Mofaz and President Katsav. At a joint press briefing with Mr. Sharon at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, and before his meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas, Mr. Powell called on the Palestinians to take “decisive action” against terror groups in order to move the peace process forward. “We welcome the positive steps, political steps already taken by Palestinian officials towards reform and towards peace, but we must also see rapid, decisive action by the Palestinians to disarm and dismantle the terrorist infrastructure,” Mr. Powell said, and called Mr. Sharon's ideas to ease the conditions on the Palestinian people “very promising and very hopeful.” “In order to make progress and not to miss this opportunity, we will soon be meeting with our Palestinian colleagues and with the help of the Americans we will be able to achieve a settlement that will lead to peace,” Mr. Sharon said. “A genuine war against terror by the Palestinians involving real effort to prevent terror is the key to progress in the political process,” he added. “Quiet and security for the Israeli people will lead to Israeli measures that will create a new and better reality for the Palestinian population.” Mr. Sharon also said Israel was willing to make “painful concessions” for a genuine, durable peace but would not compromise its security. (BBC, Ha’aretz, www.state.gov/secretary)

During a meeting with Secretary of State Powell, Defence Minister Mofaz said Israel was prepared to pull back its forces from some positions in the northern Gaza Strip and transfer security authority for those areas to the Palestinian Authority. He stressed, however, that Israel would demand that the Palestinians work to uproot terror organizations and the infrastructure for producing weapons. He stressed that Israel did not accept the proposal for a ceasefire and that it would continue to fight terror until the Palestinians began a real war against it. Mr. Mofaz told Secretary Powell that Abu Mazen faced two obstacles: terror organizations – Hamas and Islamic Jihad – and efforts by Mr. Arafat to torpedo diplomatic efforts. (Ha’aretz)

Later in the day, Secretary Powell met with Prime Minister Abbas in Jericho. After their meeting, during a joint press conference held at the Oasis InterContinental Hotel, Prime Minister Abbas said that, as the Palestinian leadership and Government remained committed to honest, good-faith implementation of its obligations, the Palestinian side expected the Israeli side to do the same. “In this context, we are committed to what we pledged in front of the Palestinian Legislative Council in terms of the oneness of the Authority ... , the rule of law and political pluralism within a democratic framework. We also renew our rejection of violence irrespective of its perpetrator. We are also ready to make the statement required from us in the Road Map, on the same day and at the same hour and minute that Prime Minister Sharon issues the statement required from Israel by the Road Map,” Mr. Abbas said, adding: “We look forward to a complete halt to settlement activity, an end to the siege, the separation wall, assassinations, collective punishment, the destruction of agricultural products and of infrastructure, limits on the movements of Palestinian citizens and institutions, and the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners. We also demand that Chairman Yasser Arafat be guaranteed freedom of movement, and that all measures harming him cease.” Secretary Powell said he looked forward to working with both parties, Palestinian and Israeli, and the Quartet partners on the Road Map and to achieving full implementation of the President’s vision. “We cannot give in to despair and, just as I have urged you to move quickly and decisively to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure which has destroyed lives and aspirations, I have underscored to Prime Minister Sharon and his Government the need for Israel to do its part in improving the daily lives of Palestinians and show respect for their dignity. The United States will play its part too, and I am pleased to announce today that we will be providing an additional US$50 million to assist in rebuilding roads, creating jobs, helping small businesses and furthering the reform process that is already under way,” he said. (www.state.gov/secretary)

The IDF imposed a full closure over the entire Gaza Strip late in the day and imposed a curfew on Qalqilya, citing unspecified security considerations. Only diplomats are exempted from the entry ban, which affects all foreigners, journalists and thousands of Palestinians who on 10 May were allowed to go to work in Israel. The Karni crossing would be operating as usual. The closure was not supposed to affect merchandise delivery and fishing in several locations along the Gaza Strip coast. UNRWA said the blockade was seriously disrupting its Gaza operations. (AP, DW, Ha’aretz, IBA, Reuters)

12

IDF troops killed two armed Palestinians as they were placing an explosive device near a tunnel used for smuggling weapons in Rafah, the IDF said. Palestinian sources said the dead men had been activists in the Fatah military wing. Troops also shot dead an 18-year-old Palestinian, identified as Ahmed Alastel, as he tilled a field near an army lookout post in the vicinity of the “Netzer Hazani” settlement, north of Khan Yunis. (AP, Ha’aretz)

Israeli Army Radioreported that in Nablus the IDF had arrested Azmi Rajib Rajmi, 17, a Tanzim activist, saying he had planned to carry out a suicide bombing. He was taken to the Shin Bet security service for questioning. IDF troops also arrested the head of the PFLP in Qalqilya, Maher Ra'i. (Ha’aretz)

Israel released 71 Palestinians from army and civilian prisons, bringing the two-day total to 140. Israeli officials said the release, which started on 11 May, was a goodwill gesture, but they acknowledged that most or all of the prisoners had been arrested for working in Israel illegally, not for involvement in attacks, and would have been released soon. Palestinians, noting Israel wass holding about 5,000 prisoners, dismissed the release as an attempt to impress Secretary Powell. Palestinian sources said the prisoners had been held in Damun prison in Carmel and that most of them had been held for being in Israel illegally or for criminal activity. A small group among them were security prisoners who had been imprisoned for 10 months. Palestinian sources said they were unhappy that so few security prisoners had been released. (AP, Ha’aretz)

Settlers vowed to establish a new permanent settlement near the site in the West Bank where Palestinian gunmen had killed settler Gidon Lichterman in an ambush on the eve of IDF Soldiers Memorial Day. They said a permanent settlement called “Maaleh Gidon” would arise on the site, near “Shvut Rahel,” between Nablus and Ramallah. “We intend to establish a settlement at the site where Gidon was murdered,” said settler Moshe Porat. He said that they would not fight attempts by the IDF to evict them, but that they would return until a permanent settlement was established. (Ha’aretz)

The Palestinians declared that the mission of Secretary Powell had been a failure. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, an adviser to Yasser Arafat, charged Israel with responsibility for the failure for refusing to agree to the Road Map. PA minister of Negotiations Affairs Saeb Erakat and Minister of Cabinet Affairs Yasser Abed Rabbo demanded that the international community put pressure on Israel to adopt the Road Map. “Mr. Powell came without a positive Israeli response [to the Road Map] ... and that is very unfortunate,” said Mr. Erakat. (AP, IBA)

Mohammed Dahlan, PA Minister of Security Affairs, paid his first visit since his appointment to the headquarters of the Preventive Security apparatus in Ramallah. He met with the commander, Zuheir al-Manasra, and received a briefing on preventive security activities. (Ha’aretz)

The Commander of Palestinian Preventative Security in the Gaza Strip, Rasheed Abu Shbak, said his people had no intention of disarming any Palestinians, adding that the Palestinians had the right to continue their struggle to end the occupation. Abu Shbak also said the Palestinian security forces would take other armed Palestinians who had operated outside the framework of the Palestinian Authority into the authority security apparatus. The Israelis and the Palestinians have resumed security contacts. (IBA)

Pope John Paul II called on world Governments to play a role in seeking “fair and peaceful” answers for the people of the Middle East, who have been tried by years of “tension and unfair oppression”. Addressing a group of Catholic professors and students, including Arab priests from the Palestinian territories, Iraq, Jordan and Syria, the Pontiff said Governments should work to “restore harmony and decent living conditions” to the entire region. The Pope also called for religious freedom and the respect of human rights in the Middle East. (DPA)

Secretary Powell said he could make do with small practical steps while Israelis and Palestinians work out their differences in direct negotiations. Mr. Powell, speaking in Cairo after talks with Egyptian President Mubarak, said Israel had in effect started work on the Road Map with a package of humanitarian gestures toward the Palestinians. “It is important to get started quickly and I believe that Prime Minister Sharon has announced a variety of measures ... that in effect constitute the beginning of the road map process,” Mr. Powell added. At a press conference in Cairo with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher, Mr. Powell said there should be less focus on Israel’s refusal to use the word “accept” in reference to the peace plan, and more attention turned to what both sides “have in common.” Reacting to that statement, that Foreign Minister Maher told reporters that the word “accept” was “not a very hard word.” “It is not a dirty word. It would be a very useful word.” Concerning United States efforts to persuade its allies to sideline Chairman Arafat and deal solely with Prime Minister Abbas, Mr. Maher said, “Arafat is the elected leader of the Palestinian people. We will continue to do business with both of them.” (BBC, Reuters)

13

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Prime Minister Sharon rejected any talk of dismantling Jewish settlements in the foreseeable future despite US calls for conciliatory gestures to advance the Road Map. Mr. Sharon said that dismantling settlements was “not an issue on the horizon.” He also said that all Israeli Governments had pursued settlements in some form in the past, even during periods of peace diplomacy. (Albawaba.com, DPA, Reuters)

United States Secretary of State Powell said in Amman that the United States did not plan to rewrite or renegotiate the Road Map, and that the document was “the only path” to peace. He added that real progress could only be made through Israel’s “willingness to move down this path and Palestinian willingness and ability to deal with security issues that are uppermost in the minds of the Israelis.” (Reuters)

Greek Foreign Minister Papandreou, whose country currently holds the European Union Presidency, said the European Union expected Israel to help the new Palestinian leadership promote a Middle East peace process. Mr. Papandreou had told a meeting on 2 May of the 15 EU Foreign Ministers that Chairman Arafat remained a player in the Middle East process, and that debate over his future should not derail the Road Map. (Ha’aretz)

In Qalqilya, seven residents were detained, including senior members of the DFLP and Fatah, such as Maher Ra’i. (Ha’aretz)

The IDF reported that 10 of its soldiers had been injured by two mortars fired at a military base in “Gush Katif” in the Gaza Strip. Hamas’ military wing claimed responsibility for the attack. (Albawaba.com, Ha’aretz)

Israeli troops demolished the home of a Palestinian activist who tried to blow up a Tel Aviv cafe six months ago. Six Palestinians were arrested by Israeli forces in the Nablus area. (Albawaba.com)

Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Danilo Türk delivered a message from the United Nations Secretary-General at the opening of the UN International Meeting in Support of Middle East Peace, held in Kyiv. (UN News Service)

14

At least 30 people were wounded when an Israeli armoured force backed by helicopter gunships raided the Khan Yunis refugee camp. Palestinian Governor Hosni Zoaroub said bulldozers had torn down 10 buildings in the camp, leaving 60 people homeless. An Israeli commander, who gave his name as Col. Pinhas, said the houses had been used “time and again for terrorist activity, for lookouts and for firing anti-tank weapons.” (Albawaba.com, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip killed three Palestinian policemen and one Islamic Jihad militant in a gun battle. Palestinian rescue workers said Israeli soldiers had opened fire on a Palestinian police post near the “Netzarim” settlement. (Albawaba.com, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Clashes erupted east of Nablus between young Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli soldiers searching houses backed by two tanks and several armoured vehicles. At least eight Palestinians were wounded. A 21-year-old member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades was killed and two other Palestinians seriously wounded as Israeli troops fired on the stone-throwers and gunmen. (Albawaba.com, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Israeli troops fired at a crowd of young Palestinian stone-throwers in the West Bank town of Jenin, killing a 14-year-old youth. (Reuters)

In Tulkarm, the Israeli army arrested a woman, a mother of four, whose husband was a leader of the Islamic Jihad arrested six months ago. (Albawaba.com)

15

Israeli forces killed at least five Palestinians during incursions into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Clashes erupted after dozens of Israeli tanks and armoured personnel carriers backed by helicopter gunships had entered Beit Hanoun sometime before dawn. In Jenin, a 12-year-old boy was shot in the head and died during an exchange of fire. The Israeli army said it was searching for militants behind mortar bomb and rocket attacks on settlements and the Israeli town of Sderot. Sixteen Palestinians were injured, three seriously, according to the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. Palestinian security sources spoke of six demolished homes and large areas of destroyed agricultural land. Major-General Doron Almog, GOC Southern Command, said “the operation will continue for a few days to strengthen our hold on the territory in order to improve our activity in the Beit Hanoun area.” Nabil Abu Rudeineh, senior adviser to Chairman Arafat, condemned the operation, stating that it aimed at “pressuring the Palestinians and the Americans … to cancel the Road Map in order to continue with settlement activities and escalation.” (AP, BBC, DPA, Ha’aretz, IBA, MSNBC, Reuters, www.idf.il)

Over 20,000 Palestinians marched in the Gaza Strip and West Bank to mark "Al-Naqba" (the catastrophe). The marchers gathered before the Palestinian Legislative Council headquarters in Gaza City, waving flags and chanting slogans like “No concessions on the right of return!” and “We’ll continue struggling until we achieve our legitimate rights.” In a speech broadcast live on radio and television from his office in Ramallah, Chairman Arafat welcomed peace as the “strategic choice of the Palestinian nation,” but accused the Israeli “rule of strength” of delaying peace initiatives in the region. (DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Palestinian Authority Health Minister Kamal al-Sharafi said in a report that 37 Palestinians had been killed since the beginning of May 2003. (DPA)

At a news conference in Sofia, Secretary Powell said Israelis and Palestinians must make compromises and predicted that the meeting between Prime Minister Sharon and President Bush would be important for Middle East peace. When asked to comment on recent Israeli raids into Palestinian territory, he said: “We continue to have a difficult situation in the Middle East … I hope that in the upcoming conversations … people will be able to clarify their positions and we will find a way to go forward.” Mr. Powell said that he hoped Prime Minister Sharon could work something out with his Palestinian counterpart. (Ha’aretz, MSNBC)

The Islamic Authority (Waqf), which administers the Al-Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount in East Jerusalem, said that it would continue to bar non-Muslims from praying there. Adnan Husseini, Director of the Waqf, was responding to comments by Israel's Public Security Minister, Tzachi Hanegbi, who had said Jews would soon be allowed to pray at the site. Saed Erakat, PA Minister of Negotiations Affairs, had said opening the compound now would court disaster. (BBC, Ha’aretz, IBA)

The number of Israeli reserve soldiers jailed for refusing to serve in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had dropped drastically recently, and a group representing them said that the military had quietly softened its policy. A military spokesman denied that there had been a change in regulations and said that soldiers were not being released from serving in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. But the group "Omets Lesarev" (Courage to Refuse), which encouraged Israeli reservists not to serve beyond the Green Line, said that while 230 of the “refuseniks” had been sent to army prisons between January 2002 and February 2003, the number had since dropped to one. “We believe that the army has decided to change its policy,” said Michael Sfard, a group spokesman. “It now believes that the best way to deal with the refusal phenomenon is to quiet it down by not letting it happen.” Since the outbreak of the intifada in September 2000, some 550 Israeli reservists have publicly declared their refusal to serve in the territories. (Ha’aretz)

European Union Special Envoy to the Middle East Javier Solana met with PA Prime Minister Abbas and Chairman Arafat. Mr. Arafat urged Mr. Solana to exert pressure on Israel to accept the Road Map. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr. Arafat said that United States and European efforts were needed to force Israel to accept and implement the Road Map. Mr. Solana said: “It is [a] difficult moment to reach a stage where we can implement the Road Map.” Commenting on Mr. Abbas’ new Government, he said, “We will support him and the Road Map, which is the first step towards a Palestinian State.” The same day, Mr. Solana met with Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Ahmed Qurei. (AFP, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

16

Norway awaited an official explanation from Israel on why its Special Middle East Envoy, Jakken Biørn Lian, had not been allowed to enter Gaza to meet with PA Minister of Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan on 14 May. The Norwegian Embassy in Tel Aviv told Aftenposten that Mr. Lian, as an “unaccredited diplomat,” would not be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip, on the grounds that only accredited diplomats could receive such clearance. Acting spokesman for the Norwegian Foreign Ministry Eirik Bergesen said Norway had asked Israel to account for Mr. Lian’s denial of access to the Gaza Strip. “We await a more detailed explanation. Norway understands Israel stepping up security due to recent events but we think it is regrettable that it affects diplomatic relations between Norway and Israel.” (Aftenposten, DPA, Ha’aretz)

Palestinian sources said some 70 tanks and APCs had continued to operate inside Beit Hanoun and parts of Jabalya and Beit Lahia. The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, issued a statement listing overnight rocket and mortar attacks. Israel Radio confirmed that Qassam rockets had been fired from the area of the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, not Beit Hanoun, where the IDF operation had begun a day earlier. Israeli security officials defended their presence in Beit Hanoun, saying the operation prevented Palestinians from firing rockets from that area. (Albawaba.com, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian outside Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. Soldiers opened fire on the man as he ran towards their outpost and failed to heed warning shots. The soldiers feared the victim was a suicide bomber, but were unable to say whether he had been armed. (DPA, Ha’aretz)

The IDF destroyed the Nablus house of Radwan Isalah Hasin Karo, a member of PFLP’s Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, who had carried out a shooting attack in the Jordan Valley a month earlier that had resulted in the killing of two soldiers, Israeli Radio reported. (Ha’aretz, Middle East Online)

Prayers at the Al-Haram al-Sharif in East Jerusalem ended peacefully with some 7,000 Muslims taking part. Israeli police, fearing disturbances, had limited the entrance of Muslim worshippers. Only men aged 40 and above who had Israeli identity cards were allowed in and all women were allowed to enter. (Ha’aretz)

During a news briefing in London, Foreign Minister Shalom said the Israeli Government was unlikely to accept the Road Map without amendments. He said Israel had 14 “contributions” aimed at amending the plan. He added: “These are not to put obstacles, but to narrow the gaps in order to implement the initiative. Otherwise, I’m afraid it would be like so many [failed] initiatives since 1967.” (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Palestinian Authority Minister of Negotiations Affairs Saeb Erakat was reported to have sent a letter of resignation to Prime Minister Abbas. PA Minister for External Affairs Nabil Sha’ath said Mr. Erakat’s resignation was in protest at not being included in the Palestinian delegation that was to meet Prime Minister Sharon on 17 May. “This resignation has not been accepted, and we still hope it will be reversed once we hold our Cabinet meeting tomorrow [Saturday, 17 May],” Mr. Sha’ath added. Mr. Erakat declined to comment on the reports. (BBC, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters, The Guardian)

17

Two Israelis from the “Kiryat Arba” settlement were killed in a suicide bombing in Hebron. (The Jerusalem Post)

At a meeting of the Palestinian Cabinet, Prime Minister Abbas accepted the resignation of Negotiations Affairs Minister Saeb Erakat. Mr. Erakat told the BBC that he had resigned because he could no longer tolerate the policies of Prime Minister Sharon. (BBC)

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon met for three hours in Jerusalem. Mr. Abbas appealed to Mr. Sharon to commit himself to the Road Map, end assassinations of Palestinian militants, and ease blockades and curfews. He also asked for an end to the construction of the security fence and the siege on Chairman Arafat. Mr. Sharon had made action on terrorism the core of his demands of Mr. Abbas. Mr. Abbas was accompanied by Minister of State for Security Affairs Dahlan and Parliament Speaker Ahmed Qurei, while Mr. Sharon brought his top aide Dov Weissglas, General Yoav Galland and his legal adviser Shalom Turdjman. Mr. Sharon’s office had released a statement saying “the two parties were agreed that an end to terrorism is a vital step for making progress and the Palestinians have promised to make a real and sincere effort to bring this about.” PA Minister for External Affairs Sha’ath said the next day that the “meeting has failed to achieve the sole target we are seeking to accomplish – convincing the Israeli Government to abide by the Road Map, which represents the starting point.” The PA issued a press release on the talks. (AFP, DPA, The Guardian, The Jerusalem Post, www.pna.net)

18

At least eight persons, including a suspected suicide bomber, were killed in a bombing aboard an Egged bus in Jerusalem. Minutes later, another suicide bomber blew himself up in Al-Ram between Jerusalem and Ramallah, reportedly after spotting border policemen setting up a roadblock nearby. There were no other casualties. The military wing of Hamas, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the 17 and 18 May attacks. Speaking for the Palestinian Cabinet, Minister of Information Nabil Amr condemned the bombings and stressed that the Palestinian Government was willing to carry out all its security commitments. The PA issued a statement condemning the attacks. (Albawaba.com, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Guardian, The Jerusalem Post, www.pna.net)

The Israeli Cabinet decided to impose a “full closure” on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Sharon told the Cabinet he would continue meeting with Prime Minister Abbas. The Cabinet also issued a directive to all Government officials not to meet with any foreign official who, during their visit to the region, would meet with Chairman Arafat. This policy would go into effect for all diplomats planning their visits now, but would not include the Foreign Ministers of France, Bulgaria, Hungary and New Zealand who had already planned visits to the region. They would be able to meet with Foreign Minister Shalom even if they also met with Mr. Arafat. (AFP, IBA, The Guardian, The Jerusalem Post)

Prime Minister Sharon consulted with army and intelligence officials after deciding to postpone his trip to Washington. Mr. Sharon was reportedly holding off from a major response to the latest suicide bombings “so as not to destabilize the Government of Prime Minister Abbas,” according to Israeli television Channel 10. During the meeting, Mr. Sharon ruled out any move aimed at deporting PA Chairman Arafat from the West Bank, despite the clamour for his expulsion among Sharon's right-wing constituency. (AFP)

The IDF expelled Mahmoud Sa’adi, the brother of one of the top members of the Islamic Jihad’s military wing, from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip. On 9 April, the Head of the Central Command, Major General Moshe Kaplinski, issued the “residence limiting order” which would be in effect for one year. (Ha’aretz)

The IDF demolished the house in Hebron Fuad Qawasmeh, a Hamas member who had blown himself up in Hebron on 17 May, killing two Israelis. (www.idf.il)

19

Two Palestinians were shot dead as they cut through the security fence of the “Sha’arei Tikva” settlement, south of Qalqilya. The Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack and said that the two teenagers were from the Balata refugee camp in Nablus. (The Jerusalem Post)

A 12-year-old boy was killed and 13 teenagers injured by IDF fire in the Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. (DPA)

At least four people, including a suspected suicide bomber, were killed in a suicide bombing at a shopping mall in the northern Israeli city of Afula. At least 15 people were also hurt in the blast. Earlier on the same day, another suspected suicide bomber on a bicycle blew himself up next to an Israeli patrol close to the “Kfar Darom” settlement in the central Gaza Strip, slightly wounding three soldiers. (BBC, IBA, Reuters, www.idf.il)

Six Palestinians were wounded in the West Bank in clashes with soldiers in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus. (The Jerusalem Post)

Bulldozers destroyed four homes near the Egyptian border in the southern Gaza Strip. They razed another four, plus a part of a mosque, in Beit Hanoun. Since August 2002, the Israeli army has dynamited over 200 houses in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. (AFP)

The head of the Palestinian Authority General Intelligence Service, Tawfiq Tirawi, hold Ha’aretz that all the Palestinians defined by Israel as “wanted terror suspects” had left the Muqataa. Palestinian sources said that the men had been ordered out by Chairman Arafat himself, who feared that their continued presence there could be used by the IDF as an excuse to raid the compound. (Ha’aretz)

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan strongly condemned the suicide bombings and attacks against Israelis. He passed on his condolences to the families of those who had lost loved ones in the attacks. He “urged the Palestinian leadership to do everything in its power to de-legitimize and stop terrorism.” He called on the Government of Israel to “show restraint, to act in conformity with its obligations under international humanitarian law and to ensure that its security forces take measures to protect the safety of civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories.” (UN News Centre)

In a statement issued in Geneva, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello condemned the suicide bombings against Israeli civilians, saying that such acts “serve only to destroy civilian life and demonstrate the utterly repugnant nature of terrorism.” He also said that “Israel and the Palestinian leadership must do their utmost to break the cycle of violence and ensure that peace, built on a solid foundation of full respect for human rights, becomes a reality.” (UN News Centre)

The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Terje Rød-Larsen, briefed the Security Council on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.” (UN News Centre, UN press release SC/7761)

Eighteen United Nations agencies and NGOs, including UNRWA, UNDP, WFP, OCHA and WHO, issued a press release protesting the Gaza closure. It said that the closure had made the operations of all United Nations agencies, NGOs and other humanitarian and development agencies unreasonably difficult, inefficient and costly. It also said that if the Government of Israel was serious about wishing to support humanitarian affairs, the restrictions should be lifted immediately. (UNRWA press release HQ/G/07/2003)

The Palestinian Cabinet is now organizing various Government offices. Palestinian Authority Minister Dahlan is planning to make substantial changes in the police command structure in the Gaza Strip and is expected to make a related announcement in the coming days. (IBA)

A two-day conference to promote mutual trust and renew peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians opened in Tokyo [see 29 April 2003]. Held under the auspices of the Japan Foreign Ministry, it drew representatives from Governments, business and academic institutions. According to the Foreign Ministry, the conference would “discuss a vision of prosperity for both the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the role to be played by the international community, from a midium- and long-term perspective.” (AFP)

In Tulkarm, Israeli paratroopers shot and wounded a Palestinian man who had reportedly thrown a firebomb at the troops. (The Jerusalem Post)

The IDF arrested 18 wanted Palestinians throughout the West Bank, including the parents of the Palestinian who had carried out a suicide bombing at a shopping mall in Afula. (www.idf.il)

The Palestinian Authority Ministry of the Interior named Brigadier Mahmoud Asfour as the Palestinian civil police chief, and Brigadier Abdel Hay Abdel Wahed as chief of civil defence. Other police officers were appointed as chief of training and the police academy, as well as police commanders for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. (DPA, Ha’aretz)

Two Palestinian journalists told Agence France Presse that they had been beaten up by IDF soldiers near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The two, Joseph Handal, who works for France 2,and Shaaban Kandel, who works for Arab Network News,were driving in the area when they were pulled over by an army jeep. Asked for identification, they responded that they were journalists and handed over their press cards. But the soldiers hit them and pushed them to the ground. The journalists said they had been bruised and taken to hospital. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

20

Following five suicide attacks which had taken place within 48 hours, Israeli troops had withdrawn to the outskirts of Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip, several hundred metres from the Gaza-Israel border. The military had seized Beit Hanoun five days earlier, in response to rocket fire from the town towards an Israeli border town. Palestinian medical sources said 25 Palestinians had been wounded by Israeli gunfire during the operation while attacking troops with stones. Residents said the military had demolished 15 houses, uprooted thousands of trees, and damaged the water and sewage systems. The military would not comment on the scope of destruction, but said homes and orchards had been targeted because militants had been hiding there. Ha’aretz said most of the troops were still surrounding the town and were also stationed in the orchards from which Palestinians had launched Qassam rockets and mortar shells into Israel. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Minister for External Affairs Nabil Sha’ath said the Palestinian Authority would try to achieve a year-long internal Palestinian ceasefire and that talks between Palestinian groups would be renewed in Cairo shortly, Israel Radio reported. Ismael Haniya, a Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, said his organization had not received an official invitation to the Cairo talks but would respond in the affirmative upon receiving one. (Ha’aretz)

Israel Radio quoted senior Israeli officials as saying that Israel had already employed most of its military options in fighting terrorism, and among the only "remaining alternatives" were assassinating or deporting Chairman Arafat, other senior PA officials and Hamas figures. Director of Military Intelligence Major General Aharon Ze’evi said that all the heads of the intelligence services seriously opposed exiling Mr. Arafat. In a separate report, Army Radiosaid that as an alternative to outright expulsion, Foreign Ministry officials were in the initial stages of weighing a plan to ask European countries to grant Mr. Arafat asylum as an “undesired leader.” (Ha’aretz)

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose country holds the current European Union presidency, said that European Union visitors to the Middle East would continue to meet with Chairman Arafat despite Israeli demands that all foreign delegations suspend contacts with him. “If we need to meet with Arafat, we will do so … We will meet with those who we think we should meet with to promote the Road Map,” he said. (DPA)

President Bush telephoned Prime Minister Abbas for the first time, underscoring the need for both parties to the conflict to fight terror and resume peace negotiations. White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer described the 15-minute phone conversation as “friendly and hopeful” and said that while the two had not talked specifics, the President had reiterated his vision of two States living side by side. (AP)

Russian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Saltanov, in an interview with the Vremya Novostei daily, said that Chairman Arafat remained a “weighty figure” and could not be sidelined from efforts to reach peace in the Middle East. “He is the leader elected by the Palestinian people and, by virtue of this circumstance, remains a political figure exerting influence on the settlement process. And the Palestinian people alone can determine who must be their leader,” he said. (AFP, www.mid.ru)

The IDF demolished the house in Nablus of Farak Halifah, one of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades members who had carried out an attack in Tel Aviv in January 2003, killing 22 people. The IDF also demolished the house in Bethlehem of Sa’ad Nurah, who had been involved in an attempt to blow up a car bomb in Israel and in several shooting attacks in 2002. (AP, Ha’aretz, www.idf.il)

The IDF arrested Ahmed Birkawi, a high-ranking officer in the Palestinian Authority General Intelligence, in Beitunya, west of Ramallah. (The Jerusalem Post)

After meeting with President Mubarak in Cairo, Minister for External Affairs Nabil Shaath said: “The Palestinian Government will not initiate any conversation with the militant factions until Israel declares its unconditional approval of the Road Map.” Mr. Shaath said he had discussed with President Mubarak Israeli threats to expel Chairman Arafat and urged him to launch an urgent campaign with the help of other Arab countries to save Mr. Arafat’s life. (The Jerusalem Post)

In a press briefing at United Nations Headquarters, UN Special Coordinator Terje Rød-Larsen expressed his and Secretary-General Annan’s hope that Israel would move forward to the negotiating table, and said: “Within the next few weeks, we will see where we are heading. We can head back to the negotiating table and have a real peace process once again, or everything can be derailed.” (UN News Centre)

Israeli Justice Minister Yosef Lapid met with European Union Middle East Envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos and told him that if the Europeans wanted to gain Israel’s confidence, they must sever their ties with Chairman Arafat. Mr. Moratinos said the new policy of snubbing diplomats who met with Chairman Arafat would cause an unnecessary crisis with the EU. (The Jerusalem Post)

21

Israeli tanks and bulldozers moved back into the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun a day after troops had withdrawn from the town, which they had occupied for five days. The bulldozers razed agricultural land. Prime Minister Abbas cancelled his visit to the town, during which he had planned to talk to residents and inspect damage from the five-day raid. (AFP, BBC, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

A 17-year-old Palestinian boy and a 65-year-old woman were killed by Israeli soldiers in a village south of Ramallah, Israel Radio reported. Five other Palestinians were injured in the incident. Palestinian sources reported that Palestinian youths had clashed with Israeli soldiers operating in the village. The IDF Spokesman said that the soldiers had shot and wounded a Palestinian who had thrown a firebomb at them and that the incident was being investigated. (Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Israeli troops destroyed an explosives laboratory in Nablus. Inside the laboratory, the troops found six explosives belts, a suitcase containing explosives, and various materials used to make explosive devices. (Ha’aretz, www.idf.il)

Israel Radio reported that the IDF had demolished 147 houses since the beginning of the intifada. (Ha’aretz)

The Jerusalem Post quoted a PA Minister as saying that Minister of State for Security Affairs Dahlan had been holding secret talks in the Gaza Strip with representatives of some Palestinian factions to prepare for another round of talks in Cairo concerning a ceasefire. The Minister said Hamas and the Islamic Jihad had agreed in principle to attend the talks. (The Jerusalem Post)

In the northern Gaza Strip, the IDF found two 150-kg bombs buried in the sand near the “Dugit” settlement, Israel Radio reported. Military sources said it was likely that the bombs were meant to blow up tanks. (Ha’aretz)

Ismail Haniya, a spokesman for Hamas, said that his organization would consider a halt of suicide bombings if Israel put an end to the assassination of Palestinian militants, ceased all military incursions into Palestinian towns and cities, and released all Palestinian political prisoners. (DPA)

Israeli naval commandos intercepted a fishing boat dubbed “Abu Hassan,” loaded with weapons. Foreign Minister Shalom said the arms were being transported from Lebanon to Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. The boat was seized in international waters some 160 km off the northern coast of Israel. The vessel was held in Haifa along with eight crew members, including two Hizbullah men, the Al-Arabiya TV station reported. (Albawaba.com, BBC, Reuters)

According to The Jerusalem Post,Israel has secured a delay in the planned arrival of a United States-led team to monitor progress made on the Road Map, citing Prime Minister Abbas’s failure to prevent a mounting wave of terrorist attacks. Monitors were to oversee Palestinian security measures and Israel’s implementation of a settlement freeze in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Prime Minister Sharon made it clear that he did not think there was any need for the team to arrive until Prime Minister Abbas began taking action against the terrorist infrastructure. The team is expected to be headed by the State Department’s Richard Erdman, who has served for two years as United States special envoy and chair of the Israel-Lebanon Monitoring Group, and the Central Intelligence Agency’s Jeff O’Connell, a former station chief in Tel Aviv. Prime Minster Sharon sent his bureau Chief of Staff, Dov Weisglass, to the United States to continue a dialogue with the Administration on Israel’s objections to the Road Map and to “share assessments” on the recent spate of terrorist attacks. Mr. Weisglass is expected to meet with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to keep up the United States-Israeli dialogue and exchange views on how to push the process forward. (The Jerusalem Post)

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom has instructed Israeli diplomats abroad to stop using the phrase “right of return” in reference to the Palestinian refugee issue, Israeli media reported. Mr. Shalom told them to instead speak of “the desire of return” in official state documents. He acted on the advice of the Foreign Ministry’s legal adviser, Alan Baker, who had opined that the right did not exist in international law. (DPA)

According to The New York Times,President Bush is considering travelling to the Middle East in the next few weeks. Administration officials said that the President could meet with Prime Ministers Sharon and Abbas in Kuwait or Qatar, and that his visit to Israel was considered possible, but unlikely. (The New York Times)

Chinese Special Envoy to the Middle East Wan Shijie met with Chairman Arafat in Ramallah. He said that his country supported peace between the Palestinians and Israel on the basis of the Road Map and that the plan was a “workable means to resume peace talks.” China, as a permanent member of the Security Council, “will do all it can and bear its responsibility to achieve peace in the Middle East,” Mr. Shijie said. (DPA, The Jerusalem Post)

On the sidelines of the Third Mediterranean Conference on Energy, held in Athens, Israeli and Palestinian representatives agreed to work together in a technical working group along with the European Commission to look at common energy interests. “I think this is one step forward. I hope that it will be the first step for a new relation with Israel so that the area can live in peace,” Palestinian Energy Minister Azzam Shawwa told reporters after the meeting. Israeli Energy Minister Joseph Paritzky said Israel was keen to improve energy relations with its neighbours. “Although we share deep political differences, at least in the energy field we have decided to try to find some ways to work together to make the lives of the people in the area a little better,” Mr. Paritzky said. European Union Energy Commissioner Loyola de Palacio said the working group would discuss collaborating on issues such as cross-border gas pipeline links. The conference was attended by the European Union member States, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey as well 10 other Mediterranean countries. (DPA, Reuters)

Prime Minister Sharon’s Chief of Staff, Dov Weisglass, met with United States National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in an effort to find a formula that would enable Israel to accept the Road Map while taking into account its comments and reservations about it. The US Administration demanded that Israel formally accept the Road Map so that it did not appear to be recalcitrant by trying to delay advancing the progress of the the political process. The Administration also had demanded that Mr. Sharon dismantle illegal outposts in the West Bank immediately after the next meeting between him and President Bush. (Ha’aretz, Middle East Online, The Jerusalem Post)

Palestinian Authority Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, in Washington for talks with US Administration officials, met with President Bush as well as Condoleezza Rice. (Ha’aretz)

According to a survey conducted by Birzeit University in the West Bank and published in the Al-Quds newspaper, most Palestinians were in favour of stopping terror attacks inside Israel if that would lead to the renewal of political negotiations with Israel and a solution to the Palestine problem. The survey showed that 71 per cent of Palestinians supported the cessation of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians in return for international guarantees and a renewal of negotiations with Israel. Some 63 per cent of respondents supported the unconditional renewal of negotiations, and 48 per cent supported the demilitarization of armed organizations and their substitution with law enforcement under the new Palestinian Government, which enjoyed 72 per cent support in the survey. The survey also showed that some 59 per cent of respondents thought that the negotiation for the Israeli Army’s withdrawal from the territories should top the Palestinian Authority’s political agenda. (The Jerusalem Post)

22

Israel indicated to the United States that it was willing to take some humanitarian measures called for under the Road Map that did not endanger Israeli security, but that it could not be expected to lift closures at a time when there were 50 to 60 terror warnings a week. (The Jerusalem Post)

Kamal Nawarda, a 12-year old Palestinian, was severely wounded by IDF fire in the village of Al-Yamun, west of Jenin. The boy was shot in clashes between youths and IDF troops in the village and was initially reported to have been killed by Palestinian security sources. (Ha’aretz, Middle East Online)

About 20 schoolchildren threw stones at Israeli tanks in Beit Hanoun. Soldiers fired M-16 assault rifles, injuring five youngsters in the arms and legs. The army said soldiers had fired warning shots to disperse the stone-throwers. (The Guardian)

Israeli troops arrested seven wanted Palestinians in Hebron, three of them Hamas militants. Troops also arrested two wanted Palestinians in Tammun and Tubas, north-east of Nablus. Another Palestinian was arrested in the Askar refugee camp in Nablus. (Ha’aretz)

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Abbas met with leaders of Hamas. Participating in the talks were Hamas leaders Mahmoud al-Zahar and Abdel-Aziz Rantisi. No details of the meeting were immediately available. (AP, BBC,Reuters)

Palestinian students at Birzeit University in Ramallah held a demonstration in the streets of the city to protest the IDF closure that had prevented them from getting to their classes. (Ha’aretz)

Israeli Army Radio reported that security forces had detained some 1,300 Palestinians staying in Israel illegally over the past 24 hours. All except 19 of them were released and returned to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (Ha’aretz)

Palestinian Authority Minister of State for Security Affairs Dahlan met with Ami Ayalon, the former head of Israel’s General Security Service (Shin Bet) at a Gaza crossing point. The two discussed a peace plan that Mr. Ayalon had proposed along with the Palestinian representative for Jerusalem, Sari Nusseibeh, media reports said. (The Jerusalem Post)

Referring to recent reports that UNRWA might be forced to cease operations if the closure continued, Commissioner-General Peter Hansen said at a meeting of 27 major donor countries in Amman: “UNRWA remains committed to serving the refugees in Gaza whatever the difficulties it faces.” Mr. Hansen said UNRWA had received pledges of only US$34 million against the $94 million the Agency needed to carry out emergency operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in the first half of 2003. (www.un.org/unrwa)

23

An explosion took place near an armoured bus carrying some 15 Israeli settlers from the “Netzarim” settlement in central Gaza to Israel, injuring 9 people. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. Initial reports suggested that the explosion had been caused by a roadside bomb, although security officials were also examining the possibility that an anti-tank missile had been fired at the bus. (AP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

A wanted Fatah activist, Amir Havravay, aged 17, was critically wounded during an exchange of fire with Israeli forces operating in the Tulkarm refugee camp. Palestinian sources said the IDF had tried to capture him several times in the past by raiding his family home in Tulkarm but had been unable to locate him. (Ha’aretz)

Israeli troops dynamited the house of the 19-year-old Palestinian woman who had carried out a suicide bombing in Afula on 19 May, killing three people. The two-story house of the bomber, Hiba Azem Daraghma, in Tubas between Jenin and Nablus was home to 13 people. The army also rounded up 21 Palestinians in the West Bank, 16 of them during a pre-dawn incursion into the Jenin region. (AFP)

The IDF had decided to expel five Palestinian militants from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip, an army spokeswoman said. The five were currently being held in Israeli detention in an internment camp in the West Bank. Four of them belong to Hamas and the fifth to Fatah. (DPA)

The White House released the following statement by Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice:


Secretary of State Powell told a news conference in Paris: “We have told the Israeli Government that we would take their comments into consideration and address them fully and seriously as we went forward in the implementation of the Road Map, but this does not require us to change the Road Map.” “We are expecting a response from the State of Israel to our statement within the very near future,” Mr. Powell said. According to US officials, President Bush is considering meeting Prime Ministers Sharon and Abbas to push forward the Road Map, but diplomatic sources said there could be no talks until Israel accepted the plan. Possible sites for a summit include Geneva or Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, US officials said. (DPA, Reuters)

Prime Minister Sharon’s office said in a statement, after the above statement by Secretary Powell and Ms. Rice had been issued: “The Prime Minister says that the State of Israel is ready to accept the steps which are outlined in the Road Map and it will be presented to the Government for approval.” The Cabinet is due to meet next on 25 May. (Reuters)

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin is expected to arrive in Israel for talks on 25 May. He reportedly plans to meet Chairman Arafat. (Ha’aretz)

UNDP has established a cancer care centre at the Beit Jala Hospital in the West Bank, in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health. The funds for the $2.2 million project are part of a $9.4 million contribution from Italy to improve the quality of health care in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (www.undp.org)

The Joint UNESCO/Palestinian Authority Committee met for the fifth time at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris for two days. The purpose of the meeting was to take stock of actions carried out in the various fields of competence of the organization, within the framework of an agreement signed in December 1993, and to identify new projects for implementation over the short, medium and long term. Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, chaired the opening session. (www.portal.UNESCO.org)

25

The Israeli Government approved the Road Map. The 23-member Cabinet approved the Road Map by one vote more than the simple majority needed for passage. The decision, 12-7, with four members abstaining, came after a six-hour cabinet meeting. In a separate vote of 16-1, the Cabinet, however, rejected the return of Palestine refugees. In a statement, the Israeli Government said the Cabinet had “agreed to accept the steps set out in the Road Map.” Mr. Sharon told Yediot Ahronot, “The time has come to say yes to the Americans, the time has come to divide this land between us and the Palestinians.” Palestinian spokesman Michael Tarazi said: “We welcome the Israeli acceptance of the Road Map and view it as a positive step. However, we certainly will not take into account any Israeli unilateral conditions, and we have been assured by the authors of the Road Map that there will be no changes to the text, and we expect that commitment to be honoured.” (AFP, BBC, DPA, Reuters)

Eleven Palestinians wanted by the Israelis were arrested. Two Palestinians, one a member of the Tanzim, were arrested in Nablus. In Hebron, four Palestinians were arrested, one of them a Hamas member. In Dura, west of Hebron, two Fatah members were arrested. In the settlement of “Tekoa”, south-east of Bethlehem, one Palestinian was apprehended. (www.idf.il)

26

Israeli troops killed an unarmed Palestinian teenager and captured his companion as they infiltrated a fenced area near kibbutz Erez, north of Gaza. Both men were unarmed and might have been intending to find work in Israel rather than carry out an attack, the IDF said. In a separate incident, Samir Arar, an 11-year-old Palestinian boy, was killed by Israeli troops in Qarawat Bani Zeid, east of Qalqilya. He was hit in the head when soldiers fired live rounds to disperse a crowd of stone-throwers. (Albawaba.com, Ha’aretz, The Guardian, The Jerusalem Post)

Israeli soldiers fired on diplomatic vehicles in Beit Hanoun. There were no injuries from the incident. Peter Lundberg, a Swedish official, said that two bullets hit the windshield of the Swedish consulate’s armoured car, and that small arms fire had also been directed at other diplomatic vehicles, including those from Austria, Denmark, Greece, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the European Union. Military sources said roadblocks had been established at the entrance to Beit Hanoun and that shots were fired in the air when vehicles had tried to skirt the roadblocks. (Albawaba.com, Ha’aretz, The Guardian)

The following statement was issued by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

(Press elease SG/SM/8719-PAL/1950)

IDF troops left the Tulkarm refugee camp in the course of Operation “Extracting the Root,” which had begun on 23 May. A curfew in the city remained in place. According to the IDF, the goal of the operation was to arrest terrorists and uncover weapons caches. Two Palestinians had been arrested during the operation. (www.idf.il)

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin met with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Abbas and Chairman Arafat. Mr. de Villepin lauded Israel’s approval of the Road Map, urging both sides to start implementing it immediately. He said France and the EU would do their utmost to guarantee its success. He added that “each party must fulfil its part of the deal. It is crucial that we seize this opportunity.” Mr. de Villepin also delivered a letter to Mr. Arafat from French President Chirac expressing France’s interest in the implementation of the Road Map. Earlier, Mr. de Villepin had toured the Al-Amari refugee camp near Ramallah. Refugees there told him that the right of return to their homeland was sacred. (The Jerusalem Post)

Responding to criticism from Likud Party members concerning the approval of the Road Map, Prime Minister Sharon said “the idea of keeping 3.5 million Palestinians under occupation is the worst thing for Israel, for the Palestinians and also for the Israeli economy.” Mr. Sharon maintained that the Road Map posed no security threat to Israel. (Albawaba.com, Middle East Online)

27

Israeli troops shot and killed a 16-year-old Palestinian boy and wounded a 7-year-old boy after opening fire during confrontations in the West Bank. The shootings, which the IDF said came in response to attacks by Palestinians throwing stones and firebombs, occurred in the Tulkarm refugee camp. (The Guardian, Middle East Online)

In Nablus, Israeli troops opened fire on youths, hitting a 9-year-old Palestinian boy in the head and critically wounding him, and hitting two 12-year old boys in the legs. (The Guardian)

IDF forces demolished the house of Shadi Battat, a Fatah militant killed last month while being pursued by IDF troops. The house was located in Dahariya village, south of Hebron. (Albawaba.com, Ha’aretz)

The IDF destroyed the homes of the two suicide bombers responsible for attacks the previous week in Jerusalem and near the Ar-Ram junction. (The Jerusalem Post)

Five Palestinian children, a Palestinian woman and a police officer were injured after accidentally detonating explosives in Hebron. The children found the explosives in two plastic bags under a tree. (The Guardian)

The IDF imposed a curfew on Jenin in the course of a pre-dawn operation. (Albawaba.com, Ha’aretz)

Palestinians fired a Qassam rocket at the western Negev city of Sderot, but did not cause any damage or injuries. Two women were treated for shock. (Albawaba.com, Ha’aretz)

Following Prime Minister Sharon’s comments to the Likud Party, the Israeli Foreign Ministry wad weighing the issuance of an internal regulation that, for the first time, would allow Israel’s official spokespersons to use the word “occupation,” Army Radio reported. According to the radio, “Until now, the word ‘occupation’ in international spokesmanship has been considered something that was forbidden to utter, because it was believed that Israel would always thus be seen in a bad light.” Mr. Sharon said he had been told by Attorney-General Rubinstein that the preferred phrase was “disputed territory.” (Ha’aretz)

Chairing hearings of the Knesset Security and Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael Eitan, former Israeli Cabinet Minister and leader of the Likud Party, accused soldiers of “gross violations of human rights” in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and the army's high command of indifference to the abuses. He announced that hearings would resume in a fortnight, with the army providing statistics on human rights abuses. (The Guardian)

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa called for the Road Map to be enlarged to find a comprehensive Middle East settlement that included Syria and Lebanon. He added: “The two tracks are united and they will be part of the whole solution in the Middle East.” He said Syria did not oppose the Road Map as such but it had to be expanded. (AFP)

Israeli troops demolished two Palestinian houses, one in the village Tel, south of Nablus, belonging to Sayid Ramadan, who according to the IDF was responsible for carrying out a shooting attack in Jerusalem in January 2002, which had killed two Israelis; and the other in the village of Beit Furik belonging to Mohammed Hanani, who had attempted a suicide bombing at kibbutz Metzer six months earlier. (IBA)

The Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee convened in Ramallah in the presence of Chairman Arafat and with Prime Minister Abbas in attendance. The Committee decided that the Palestinian Authority was ready to honour its commitments under the first stage of the Road Map, in conjunction with Israel’s declaration on the recognition of a Palestinian State and an end to violence. (IBA)

Palestinians fired four mortar shells at the “Gush Katif” settlement block in the Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported. (Ha’aretz)

Six international humanitarian organizations jointly released a statement expressing their concern over the increase of Israeli restrictions of human rights and humanitarian workers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Those organizations were: Amnesty International, the Euro-Mediterranean Network for Human Rights (EMNHR), Human Rights Watch (HRW), the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT). (www.amnesty.org,www.hrw.org)

28

In Tulkarm, a 15-year-old Palestinian was seriously wounded by Israeli gunfire as he and other youths were throwing stones at soldiers. The youth was hit in the eye and two other youths were also wounded. An Israeli military source said “violent riots” had erupted during an army operation in Tulkarm. “Fire was only used for dispersal purposes and we did not have any report of casualties,” the source said. (AFP)

In a 24-hour sweep, Israeli border police arrested some 1,100 Palestinians who reportedly were in Israel illegally. Twenty-three of them were brought before a military court for speedy trial. The rest had been returned to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Nineteen Israelis who transported the Palestinians and four others who had given them a place to sleep were also arrested. (IBA)

Palestinian militants fired a Qassam rocket at the Negev town of Sderot. The rocket landed on a private residence but caused no injuries. (Ha’aretz)

Several mortar shells were fired at the “Gush Katif” settlement in the southern Gaza Strip. At least five mortar shells landed in an open field near the settlement. One mortar landed near a house, causing light damage. (The Jerusalem Post)

Shots were fired at an Egged bus on route No. 160 (Jerusalem to Hebron), when it neared Halhoul Junction close to Hebron. Two Israelis were slightly wounded. (Ha’aretz, IBA, The Jerusalem Post)

The IDF discovered a 30-kg bomb placed near the security fence at the Karni crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel. The bomb was safely detonated, and no damage was caused. (The Jerusalem Post)

A former member of Force 17, Mahmud Zayed, 36, was shot six times in the head and chest and killed as he sat in his car east of Ramallah. The exact circumstances of the death were initially unclear, but the IDF had been conducting searches for wanted militants in the area. Israeli security officials denied any connection with the incident, and later in the day the assailant, whose brother had been killed 10 years ago by Mr. Zayed, contacted Palestinian security officials and confessed to the murder, saying his motive was revenge. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

In an interview with Ha’aretz, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Abbas called on Israel to drop its reservations on the Road Map, calling it a “historic opportunity to return to a track of normalcy.” He also said the Palestinians would not relinquish the right of return and that the issue would only be discussed in permanent status talks. Mr. Abbas added that he would not be satisfied with merely a hudna (ceasefire), but wanted “absolute calm” from Hamas. On Chairman Arafat’s isolation, he said, “Arafat is the elected President of the Palestinian Authority and should not be isolated. I reject, both morally and politically, all the pressure on countries and personages not to meet him … It is difficult for me to explain to our citizenry that we have a new Government, conducting open negotiations with Israel and our president is isolated in the Muqataa.” He also said, “It is important that the Palestinians see change on the ground, like a cessation of the assassinations and demolitions … and the Palestinian civilian should feel something has changed … and he can go to work and move around.” (Albawaba.com, Ha’aretz)

Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio met with Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Abbas in Ramallah. According to an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ms. Palacio would return to Israel on 1 June for talks with Foreign Minister Shalom. (AFP)

Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin said Hamas would be willing to consider a temporary ceasefire in light of Israel’s acceptance of the Road Map and to test Israel’s reactions in the near future. Mr. Yassin said that the ceasefire would last only a number of weeks. As conditions for the ceasefire, “Israel must stop the aggression against the Palestinian people, stop the assassinations, and release our prisoners,” he said. (The Jerusalem Post)

A spokesman for the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Abu Mujahed, told Agence France-Presse by phone: “The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades are happy that Sharon and the Israeli Government accepted the Road Map, it is a good thing.” “ We are happy with the decision but there are still many questions,” he added. “The Israeli army must stop killing the leaders of the intifada. This Road Map must be felt on the ground and not be just a statement. It must lead to the Palestinian people having their own State.” (AFP)

European Union Middle East Envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos said in Rome that Chairman Arafat should not be ignored despite US and Israeli attempts to sideline him. “We have a President who has been elected through democratic elections, and he is President Arafat. So, we respect that,” he said. “We are appreciative that there is a Prime Minister now, but it doesn’t mean we are going to ignore Arafat.” (Ha’aretz)

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini proposed in a newspaper interview the holding of a Middle East peace conference during the six months of his country’s European Union presidency, which begins on 1 July. Minister Frattini suggested that a peace conference could take place in the autumn in Sicily and would involve Syria and Iran. “We have an absolute duty to achieve in the autumn the first peace conference. It is a great opportunity and a great challenge … The element we want to contribute to the undertaking is the ‘Marshall Plan’ suggested in October 2001 by Prime Minister Berlusconi,” he said. “The idea is that of a global plan bringing together economic development, cultural relations and revival of institutions … It would be short-sighted not to understand that terrorism has deep roots in despair, poverty, cultural divisions and the lack of prospects for the young.” Asked about a possible meeting between Prime Minister Berlusconi and Chairman Arafat during his visit to Israel in early June 2003, Mr. Frattini said: “It would be convenient for there to be a common position of European countries on relations with Mr. Arafat.” (AFP)

The European Union and Canada said, in a joint statement released after the European Union-Canada Summit in Athens: “European Union and Canadian leaders … call on all parties to implement fully the Road Map for the Middle East peace process … and take all necessary action to help bring into being the vision of two States living side by side in peace and security.” The summit was attended by Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Canadian Foreign Minister William Graham, European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, European Commission President Romano Prodi, and Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, whose country currently holds the European Union presidency. (AFP)

In a statement, China called for a bigger role played by the United Nations in achieving peace in the region and proposed that an international conference on the Middle East question be convened as soon as possible with the participation of the five permanent members of the Security Council and all the parties concerned. “China is ready to get actively involved in the international efforts to promote the Middle East peace process,” the statement said. ( http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng)

Amnesty International said in its annual report that at least 1,000 Palestinians had been killed by the IDF in 2002, “most of them unlawfully.” According to the report, those Palestinians included some 150 children and at least 35 individuals killed in targeted assassinations. Palestinian armed groups killed more than 420 Israelis, at least 265 of them civilians and including 47 children, and some 20 foreign nationals, in targeted or indiscriminate attacks. Also, more than 3,800 Palestinians had been tried before military courts in trials that did not meet international standards, and ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees was widespread. The report also said that Israeli soldiers had used Palestinians as “human shields” during military operations, and that certain abuses committed by the Israeli army constituted war crimes. These included unlawful killings, obstruction of medical assistance and targeting of medical personnel, extensive and wanton destruction of property, torture and cruel and inhuman treatment, unlawful confinement and the use of “human shields.” The report said the deliberate targeting of civilians by Palestinian armed groups constituted crimes against humanity. Amnesty also reported that more than 2,000 Palestinian homes had been destroyed in 2002. (www.amnesty.org)

The Office of President Mubarak said Prime Minister Abbas was to take part in the 3 June summit between President Bush and Arab leaders in Sharm el-Sheikh. United States National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said President Mubarak would host a meeting with President Bush, Crown Prince Abdallah of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah of Jordan, King Hamad of Bahrain, and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Abbas. President Bush would depart on 4 June for Aqaba, Jordan, where he would meet with King Abdullah and, “conditions permitting,” with Prime Minister Sharon, followed by a meeting with Prime Minister Abbas. That afternoon, the President would have a trilateral meeting with Prime Ministers Sharon and Abbas, Ms. Rice said. (AFP, www.whitehouse.gov)

29

The IDF demolished the Jenin home of a Hamas leader, Iyad Halil Mohammed Moussa, suspected by Israel of involvement in shooting attacks on its troops and the recruitment of suicide bombers. (Ha’aretz)

In a statement released after a meeting between Prime Ministers Sharon and Abbas in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Sharon outlined steps to be taken by Israel after a Palestinian effort to eradicate terrorism had been taken. Mr. Sharon suggested that Israel would “direct the security forces to redeploy immediately in the Gaza Strip and in [the West Bank] in such a way that would make it easier for the Palestinians to take responsibility for security in these areas, and act in a genuine and real manner to stop terror.” However, Mr. Sharon emphasized that if an imminent threat to the lives of Israelis occurred in areas handed over to Palestinian control, the IDF would not hesitate to take action to prevent the danger. Mr. Sharon also announced a long list of steps to ease the living conditions of Palestinians and stimulate the Palestinian economy. Those steps included: removing the closures in the Occupied Palestinian Territory; granting permanent transit permits to senior Palestinian officials; releasing 100 administrative detainees; increasing the transfers of Israeli-held Palestinian tax funds to the amount of NIS150 million per month; and allowing a quota of 25,000 workers in Israel. Mr. Sharon clarified that if Palestinians acted to stop terrorism, Israel would consider commencing political negotiations in accordance with the principles of President Bush’s 24 June 2002 speech and in that framework it would be agreed to establish a provisional Palestinian State and afterwards a permanent State. At the meeting, Prime Minister Abbas reiterated his determination to fight terrorism and said that a ceasefire was not enough, but rather that he was aiming to remove all illegal weapons from the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (AP, Ha’aretz, www.pmo.gov.il)

30

The IDF killed an armed Palestinian trying to cross into Israel from the Gaza Strip, south of the “Katif” crossing, Israel Radio reported. The army believes that the man was armed with hand grenades and was carrying an explosive belt because a loud explosion was heard when they fired at him. (DPA, Ha’aretz)

The IDF completed a large-scale operation in Jenin that had begun two days earlier, and pulled out of the city. (Ha’aretz)

A spokesman for the Israeli Defence Ministry said that the release of 100 Palestinian prisoners agreed at the meeting between Prime Ministers Sharon and Abbas on 29 May had been delayed. The spokesman gave no reason for the delay, saying only that the release would be reviewed over the weekend. But the easing of restrictions on Palestinians entering Israel would go ahead as planned on 31 May, he said. (BBC)

President Bush told Le Figaro in an interview: “As long as we have not helped in the emergence of a Palestinian State, public opinion will be sceptical … But I have absolutely decided to go all the way, because the foreign policy of the United States does not only defend its interests; it expresses values.” Asked about the expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the President suggested that Washington would ask to have some of them dismantled. “The expansion of these installations is in contradiction with our efforts for a Palestinian State,” he said. Mr. Bush also said that he was confident that he could convince Prime Minister Sharon to go along with American plans for the region. “I can put pressure on Ariel Sharon … If I was afraid to make the decisions necessary to push the [peace] process forward, I wouldn’t be making this trip to the Mideast,” he said. (DPA)

A spokesman for the United States Embassy in Tel Aviv said that Assistant Secretary of State William Burns and National Security Council Director Elliott Abrams would be in Israel to prepare for the Aqaba Summit to be held on 4 June. The two were expected to begin working on the Israeli and Palestinian opening statements to be delivered at the Summit. Israel Radio, quoting a Palestinian official, said that the Summit might start with Israel and the Palestinians making a joint announcement of mutual recognition. (Ha’aretz)

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that a coordinating group was being assembled to monitor Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. “It is being structured now. It will be all Americans. We will put it in place in the region. It will be giving us a 24/7 presence helping both sides,” Mr. Powell told reporters travelling with President Bush aboard Air Force One. Mr. Powell said the group would monitor, not mediate, between the parties. “Don’t think of it as a special envoy. We’re not at that stage yet. We’re at the beginning stages.” Speaking of the upcoming Aqaba Summit, Mr. Powell said President Bush would consider it a success if the parties agreed to make a firm commitment to implement the Road Map. “The Road Map isn’t as important as what happens within the concept of a Road Map – both sides taking steps, cracking down on terror, ending violence, making life easier for Palestinian people by starting to pull back from some of the closures that are there,” he said. (AFP, Reuters)

“There is a price to everything; stopping our martyr operations and attacks against [Israeli] civilians cannot occur without the enemy paying the price and stopping its aggression in all its forms,” top Hamas official Abdel Aziz Rantissi told Agence France-Presse.Palestinians “have not made all these sacrifices to obtain the liberation of one or two prisoners and the right for some workers to be allowed” to go back to Israel, he said in reference to the package of Israeli measures, adding: “What our people want is the release of every prisoner, the restitution of our land and holy places and a halt to the [Israeli] aggression.” (AFP)

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, speaking in Berlin at a discussion on peace, was part of a German ecumenical religious festival, called for Israel to withdraw its troops from the Occupied Palestinian Territory, saying the occupation was encouraging terrorism. It was up to Israel, as by far the strongest of the parties, “to take the first step to stop the cycle of violence,” said Patriarch Sabbah. (AFP)

Foreign Ministers from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) ended three days of talks in Tehran. The joint declaration issued by ministers and OIC delegates declared “solidarity with the resistance of the Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese people against occupation” and decried “the continued occupation of the Palestinian and other Arab territories by Israel and its policy and practice of state terrorism against the Palestinian people.” (AFP)

According to a poll conducted by the Gal Hadash Institute and published in the Israeli daily Ma’ariv, a majority of Israelis support the creation of a Palestinian State in line with the Road Map. In the survey, 57 per cent of respondents said they supported the “creation of an independent Palestinian State,” while 38 per cent said they were opposed, and 5 per cent were without opinion. Sixty-two per cent of respondents said they favoured an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, with 32 per cent opposed. Fifty-nine per cent of Israelis support the requirement under the first phase of the Road Map for Israel to freeze Jewish settlement activities, while 37 per cent said they were opposed. Fifty-six per cent said they favoured a dismantling of settlement outposts set up since 2001, while 37 per cent said they were opposed. The survey was based on interviews with 500 adult Israelis representative of the country’s Jewish and Arab population, with a 4 per cent error margin. (AFP)

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Israeli soldiers shot at two Hamas activists near Jaba and Sanur, about 10km south of Jenin, killing one and arresting the other, the IDF said. The soldiers made a surprise attack on the armed activists as the two prepared to place a bomb on a path used by Israeli patrols near Jenin. The bomb, which according to IDF weighed 70 kg, was detonated in a controlled explosion. (AFP, DPA, www.idf.il)

Two Palestinians recently wounded by Israeli fire died: Sami Abu Ali, 26, was hit by two bullets south of Jenin on 25 May, and Hisham Tafish, 22, was reportedly wounded by shrapnel from a tank shell on 29 May in Deir Al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, although Israel gave no independent confirmation of the event. (AFP)

United States Assistant Secretary of State William Burns, sent by President Bush to prepare the ground for a Middle East Peace Summit, met Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, a day after meeting Palestinian Authority Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan. Mr. Burns declined to comment, but Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Sha’ath, who attended the meeting, said Mr. Burns was helping the two sides prepare a statement to be released at the close of the Aqaba Summit. The sides had agreed to draft the statement at the 28 May meeting between Prime Ministers Sharon and Abbas. “The two sides agree to the publishing of a joint statement” on the Road Map, said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a senior adviser to Chairman Arafat. However, a senior Israeli official told Agence France-Presseon 2 June: “There will be no common statement because we have reached no prior agreement on the text, despite the efforts of United States diplomacy.” He said the main sticking point was the issue of “the Palestinians’ recognition of Israel as a Jewish State, in exchange for full recognition of a Palestinian State.” “Given that the Palestinians refuse to accept this formula, it has been decided that there will be separate statements from each of the parties at the end of the Summit,” the official said. The Saudi newspaper Al-Watan quoted a senior Jordanian official as saying that after the Summit in Aqaba, the Palestinians would issue a statement recognizing the State of Israel in principle and its right to exist in peace within safe borders, denouncing terror, its use against Israel and pledging to disarm Palestinian militias, while in exchange, Israel was expected to issue a formal statement recognizing the right of the Palestinian people to an independent State, whose final borders would be decided in future negotiations. (AFP, DPA, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

President Bush called for the creation of a “reformed, peaceful and independent Palestinian State.” “Today the emergence of new Palestinian leadership, which has condemned terror, is a hopeful sign that the parties can agree to two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security,” Mr. Bush told an audience at the Royal Castle in Krakow, Poland. “I will do all I can to reach an agreement and see it enforced… I will remind them that the work ahead will require difficult decisions,” said Mr. Bush, adding that “no leader of conscience can accept more months and years of humiliation and killing and mourning.” (AFP, DPA)

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas said he expected Palestinian factions to agree to a ceasefire in their fight against Israeli occupation within 20 days. “In a period that won’t exceed 20 days, [there will be] an agreement for a full calming down in all Palestinian territories,” Mr. Abbas told Al-Jazeera. “After the two summits in Sharm el-Sheikh and Aqaba, we will continue the negotiations with the Palestinian organizations, and within two or three weeks maximum, we will succeed in having a universal agreement which we can count on,” Mr. Abbas also said in an interview with Israeli public television the previous night. PA Minister of Culture Ziad Abu Amer, leading the negotiations with the factions, told DPA that Mr. Abbas’ talks with Hamas could end with a ceasefire agreement even before the summits, “because the talks… [were] very positive.” However, the next day Mr. Abu Amer said: “It is clear it won’t be possible to announce a ceasefire before or at the Summit,” adding: “I am optimistic, things look good and I believe it will not be long before an agreement is reached.” (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

An Israeli man was wounded by Palestinian gunfire in the northern West Bank while driving his car. The IDF arrested a wanted Palestinian in Dura, near Hebron, another at Beit Rima, near Ramallah, and a third in Azaria, near Bethlehem. There was also fighting in the northern West Bank between IDF soldiers and Palestinians, but no casualties were reported. The IDF also dynamited the exit to a tunnel it had discovered in Rafah that it said was being used to smuggle arms from the Egyptian sector of the divided town. (AFP)

Late in the day, an IDF statement announced that “based on the recommendation of the security establishment, permission was granted to lift the full closure placed on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, beginning at 12 a.m.” The IDF made it clear its forces would remain in the Palestinian areas, but Palestinians with permits would be allowed into Israel to work each day, with around 25,000 workers, including 15,000 from the Gaza Strip, expected to enter Israel by the end of the week. However, no easing of travel restrictions within the Occupied Palestinian Territory was reported, with witnesses reporting additional roadblocks erected near Nablus. “Israeli claims about a so-called easing of the closure are untrue,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a senior aide to Chairman Arafat. “The siege should be lifted.” Nonetheless a total of 14,318 Palestinians were handed a permit to cross through the Erez checkpoint by 2 June. Palestinian sources also said that the IDF had reopened the southern Gaza crossing point of Sufa, through which dozens of farmers crossed into Israel. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz,www.idf.il,Reuters)

In the evening, Israeli troops staged three separate raids in the Gaza Strip – in Rafah, Khan Yunis, and just east of Gaza City – each time moving several hundred metres into Palestinian self-rule territory. The soldiers destroyed two small security posts with a bulldozer, a mosque was badly damaged and trees were razed in the actions, Palestinian security sources said. There were no injuries reported. (AFP)


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