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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
30 June 2003

Division for Palestinian Rights

Chronological Review of Events Relating to the
Question of Palestine

MONTHLY MEDIA MONITORING REVIEW

June 2003


1

Two Palestinian boys, one of them seven years old, were seriously wounded when Israeli troops opened fire on a group of young stone-throwers in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun. (AFP)

Prime Minister Sharon asked his ministers during a weekly Cabinet meeting to call their Palestinian counterparts “ministers,” Israel Army Radio reported. “One has to call them ministers, because one must take into account the fact that the Palestinian Government was recognized by 104 States worldwide,” the radio quoted Mr. Sharon as saying in response to a question from Tourism Minister Benny Eilon who opposed using the word “ ministers” to refer to his Palestinian counterparts. Mr. Sharon also urged his ministers to increase contacts with the Palestinian Cabinet. At the same meeting. Mr. Sharon said some unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank could be dismantled immediately after the Aqaba Summit. (AFP)

French President Jacques Chirac’s spokeswoman Catherine Colonna said that “constructing peace need[ed] the coordinated efforts of everyone” and recalled that the Road Map had been a joint conception. While President Bush’s visit “will be a first step, there will be plenty of others,” she said. “Getting the international community to work together on the same basis was one of the Quartet’s great achievements,” Ms. Colonna added, “and it is without doubt the best way.” (AFP)

Israel’s General Security Service gave Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz a list of 100 Palestinian prisoners to be released. The list includes Ahmed Jabara (Abu Sukar) – who at 67 is both the oldest and the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner – and Taysir Khaled, a member of the Political Bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberationof Palestine (DFLP), who was arrested in February 2003. All the others are administrative detainees who were due to be released shortly in any case. The prisoners are expected to be released either just before, or during, the Sharm al-Sheikh Summit. (Ha’aretz)

2

Mahmud Abu Amra, 22, from the Rafah refugee camp, was shot dead by Israeli troops after he had opened fire on them near the Kissufim border crossing in the central Gaza Strip. An IDF spokesman earlier said the man had been spotted carrying a Kalashnikov rifle and grenades close to a road linking the crossing and the “Gush Katif” settlement block, in an area off limits to Palestinians. (AFP)

Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Ze’ev Boim told Israeli Army Radio:“Dismantlement is only being considered for blatantly illegal settlements, which do not exceed 10 cases. These are settlements which were built without authorization and did not receive one afterwards.” Senior Yesha Council leaders said unofficially that they would agree to the evacuation of empty or nearly empty outposts, but would fight if the Government planned to evacuate established and well-populated outposts. The Yesha Council views eight outposts as having a questionable legal basis for having been erected on plots not defined as state land, it said. Among the outposts seen as main candidates for removal are “Eish Kodesh,” near “Shvut Rachel,” “Asael” in the Hebron area, “Givat Assaf” between “Ofra” and “Beit El,” and “725,” near Nablus. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Labour Party lawmaker Ofir Pines-Paz introduced a bill in the Knesset to bar the IDF from sending reservists to guard settlement outposts that were built without government approval. (The Jerusalem Post)

A Vatican statement, released after Pope John Paul II met Secretary of State Colin Powell, endorsed the Road Map, expressing the hope it would finally lead to two States, each enjoying the same security and sovereignty. (The Jerusalem Post)

IDF soldiers operating in the northern Gaza Strip killed a Palestinian policeman, identified as Nasser Bakr, 54, after attacking a Palestinian police post in Beit Hanoun. The army said soldiers had fired at armed Palestinians moving in a prohibited zone, but did not know if anyone had been hit. (Albawaba.com, AP, Ha’aretz, The Guardian)

IDF soldiers arrested seven Palestinians suspected of involvement in terror. Five individuals were arrested in the village of Kharsa, south-west of Hebron; one person was wounded in Hebron, and one person was arrested in the village of Jaba, near Nablus. (Albawaba.com, Ha’aretz)

IDF soldiers operating in the West Bank village of Dir al-Asun, north of Tulkarm, demolished the home of Zaher Ranem, who had been suspected of planning a car detonation and suicide bombing last year. Mr. Ranem reportedly had taken part in various shooting attacks on military vehicles . (Albawaba.com,Ha’aretz)

The IDF sealed off Ramallah and imposed a curfew, saying that the army had multiple warnings of terror attacks originating from the town. (AP, The Guardian)

Israeli Housing and Construction Minister Efraim Eitam pledged to continue building in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, despite the introduction of the Road Map. Mr. Eitam, leader of the National Religious Party, said “the construction in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) shall continue.” He added that the construction was under way to fulfil the needs of “natural growth,” which he described as including the offsprings of Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as other Israelis who would like to move there. (Albawaba.com)

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said that Prime Minister Sharon intended to evacuate 17 settlements in the West Bank as part of a political agreement with the Palestinians. Mr. Rivlin said the settlements earmarked for removal were those breaking the territorial contiguity of the future Palestinian State. They could include “Nokdim,” “Tekoa,” south-west of Bethlehem, “Ganim,” “Kadim,” east of Jenin, “Homesh,” north of Nablus, Bethlehem and “Binyamin,” north of East Jerusalem. (Ha’aretz)

Israel released Tayseer Khaled, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, from prison. (AP, Middle East Online, The Guardian)

3

The IDF started releasing about 100 Palestinian administrative detainees as part of the confidence-building measures proposed in negotiations with the PA. The detainees to be released were being held for security reasons rather than criminal offences. Most would come from Ketziot Prison, in the Negev, and some from the Ofer Camp, west of Ramallah. The detainees were to be released at checkpoints close to their residences. Some 3,500 Palestinians were held in military jails, many of them without trial, and a similar number were held in other prisons and detention camps in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (Albawaba.com, AP, Ha’aretz, Middle East Online, The Guardian)

In Nablus and the nearby Balata refugee camp, seven Palestinians were hospitalized with gunshot and shrapnel wounds inflicted by Israeli troops after dozens of Palestinian youths had thrown stones and Molotov cocktails at the soldiers. The army said troops had used non-lethal means to disperse the group. (AP, The Guardian)

US President Bush met in Sharm el-Sheikh with PA Prime Minister Abbas and four Arab leaders – Egyptian President Mubarak, Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa of Bahrain and King Abdullah II of Jordan. The formal agenda included the Road Map; setting out steps towards a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; cooperation in the war against terror; and a potential US free trade agreement with the Arab world.

Statements were made by Presidents Bush and Mubarak. Mr. Mubarak, who spoke on behalf of the PA and the three other Arab leaders, said: “We will continue to fight the scourge of terrorism against humanity and reject the culture of extremism and violence in any form or shape.” President Bush said: “Israel must deal with the settlements … make sure there’s a continuous territory that the Palestinians can call home.” He also said, “Achieving these goals [of the Road Map] will require courage and moral vision on every side, from every leader. America is committed, and I am committed, to helping all the parties to reach the hard and heroic decisions that will lead to peace.” (AP, DPA, The Financial Times, Ha’aretz, Middle East Online, Reuters, The Guardian, www.whitehouse.gov)

In a press release, Amnesty International called on the participants of the Road Map Summit to recognize that respect for human rights and international law was a fundamental obligatory bargaining chip to be used in negotiations, or a concession. The organization warned that “disregarding human rights or subordinating these rights to political considerations undermines the prospect of achieving durable peace and security.” (www.amnesty.org)

Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated in the streets of Gaza City to protest against the Road Map and the summits in Egypt and Jordan. The demonstration was called for by the National and Islamic Forces, an umbrella organization of Palestinian factions. Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, spiritual leader of Hamas, said: “The Americans were never serious about implementing the Road Map and only want the region to cool down ahead of the US presidential election campaign.” (Middle East Online, The Guardian)

A Palestinian who had been critically wounded during an Israeli incursion into a central Gaza Strip village on 6 April died from his wounds. Salem al-Msaddar, 57, was shot in the head during the Israeli raid, which killed another two Palestinians. Another Palestinian, Amir Habali, 17, who had been critically wounded on 23 May by Israeli troops died from his wounds in an Israeli hospital. He was shot and wounded during clashes between Israeli troops and stone- throwers in Tulkarm. (AFP)

Asked if Hamas would stop attacks during negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, a senior official of Hamas, Ismail Abu Shanab, said in an interview with ABC’s “Nightline” programme: “Definitely yes … We are ready to offer it at any time if there is a guarantee that those preliminary steps will be taken as part of a full or wide-scale withdrawal, and not the final steps.” He said that although Hamas rejected the Road Map as a whole, the group would welcome US assurances that the process really would end in a Palestinian State. “The Road Map has a chance to succeed if the Americans block Israeli efforts to destroy it,” he said. (Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

G8 leaders made the following remarks on the Road Map in a statement:

The IDF said it had lifted curfews in Tulkarm, Qalqilya, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron. (www.idf.il)

4

The Aqaba Summit between President Bush and Prime Ministers Sharon and Abbas was concluded by separate statements by the three leaders and King Abdullah, the host of the Summit. Prime Minster Abbas said: “The armed intifada must end and we must use and resort to peaceful means in our quest to end the occupation and suffering of Palestinians and Israelis.” Mr. Abbas also pledged to “act vigorously” against incitement and hatred against Israel. Prime Minister Sharon said: “We can … reassure our Palestinian partners that we understand the importance of territorial contiguity in the West Bank for a viable Palestinian State,” and pledged to immediately begin the dismantlement of “unauthorized” outposts. He did not mention how many outposts would be dismantled. President Bush promised training and support for a “new, restructured Palestinian security service,” and announced that he would place veteran US diplomat John Wolf at the head of a US mission on the ground to help the parties to move towards peace and monitor their progress. (AP, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters,www.whitehouse.gov)

The Office of the Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General released the following statement on the conclusion of the Aqaba Summit:

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin told Europe 1 radio: “We are delighted and we salute the re-commitment of the United States in [the Middle East].” He said “everyone must be brought together” to succeed, noting that the Road Map had been drawn up by the Quartet. “The European Union played its role in recent months … It must continue to do so,” he said. “Europe is Israel’s most important economic partner, Europe is the largest provider of aid to the Palestinian territories,” he added. (DPA)

Defying an appeal by Prime Minister Abbas at the Aqaba Summit, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad vowed they would not disarm. “We will never be ready to lay down arms until the liberation of the last centimetre of the land of Palestine,” Hamas official Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi said. The Islamic Jihad followed suit. Neither group, however, ruled out further talks with Prime Minister Abbas. (DPA, Reuters)

Adi Mintz, Secretary-General of the “Council of Jewish Settlements in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza District (Yesha Council),” told Israeli Army Radio following the conclusion of the Aqaba Summit: “When the Government evacuates Jews from their land … I think that evacuation of this nature in the context of the creation of a Palestinian State is certainly a red line that nationalist parties – this includes many Likud members – do not accept.” (Ha’aretz)

Thousands of Israelis opposed to the implementation of the Road Map, many of them settlers, rallied at Jerusalem’s Zion Square to protest against the Red Sea Summit, claiming that they had been betrayed there by Prime Minister Sharon and President Bush. The demonstration was called by the “Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip (Yesha Council),” whose statement called the summit “a humiliating ceremony in which the Israeli Government celebrated its surrender to Palestinian terrorism.” Housing Minister Ephraim Eitam and Tourism Minister Benny Elon addressed the rally. The Israeli news agency Y-net said 40,000 protesters gathered at the Square, while Ha’aretz put their number at around 20,000. (AFP, DPA, The Guardian, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Prime Minister Sharon’s bureau issued a statement that referred to “the possibility of establishing a Palestinian State within temporary borders, if the conditions for this were met. The Palestinian State will, inter alia, be completely demilitarized. This State will be home of the Palestinian diaspora; no Palestinian refugees will be permitted to enter the territory of the State of Israel.” (www.pmo.gov.il)

5

IDF tanks and bulldozers moved into Rafah overnight, demolishing four houses before withdrawing. One of the houses, the army suspected, contained the opening to a tunnel used to smuggle weapons across the border from Egypt, Israel Radio reported. An Israeli military source said that there had been mortar fire from Rafah in the direction of the nearby “Gush Katif” settlement block. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

A seven-year-old girl from the Balata refugee camp was shot in the abdomen. The IDF had been conducting nightly raids in the camp, followed by daytime patrols drawing stone-throwing attacks from the youth. The girl was hit when a rubber-coated bullet ricocheted around the alleyways of the camp. According to the Palestine Red Crescent, some 50 people had been treated for bullet and shrapnel wounds in the past two days. According to Samir Abu Zaur, a doctor at Rafidiyeh hospital in Nablus, of the 32 injured whom he had treated, 12 were children. (The Guardian)

A 15-year-old Palestinian, Ibrahim Abu Habla, died from his wounds in Nablus. He had been shot in the eye by Israeli troops, who fired live rounds at stone-throwing youths during an incursion into Tulkarm on 28 May. (AFP)

Israel Radio reported that Prime Ministers Sharon and Abbas would meet again “soon” to discuss the implementation of the Road Map. Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz was also to meet PA Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan, who was finalizing a plan detailing how Palestinian security forces intended to reign in militants. Both sides were also expected to resume security cooperation, with a meeting between senior Israeli and Palestinian officers scheduled for the following week. (AFP, DPA)

Reacting to the Red Sea Summit, Chairman Arafat said Prime Minister Sharon had offered nothing “tangible” to the Palestinians, adding: “ What’s the significance of removing a caravan from one location and then saying ‘I have removed a settlement’?” (Albawaba.com, Reuters)

UNRWA has launched an urgent appeal to the international community for funds to support its emergency activities in the second half of 2003. The agency is asking for US$103 million to provide food aid for the poor, shelter for the homeless, medical care for the injured and counselling for children who have been traumatized by violence. With the funds requested UNRWA plans to provide basic food aid to 227,500 families - over 1.1 million individuals - who have been plunged into dire poverty by the closures, curfews and violence of the last 32 months. Over $32 million of the appeal is earmarked for emergency food. To further support family incomes and put the unemployed into useful work, UNRWA also plans to provide over 830,000 work days through its emergency job creation programme. (UN News Centre, UNRWA press release HQ/G/09/2003)

The IDF arrested two brothers in a village near Jenin after surrounding their home, and three more Palestinians in a village near Tulkarm. Israeli troops also confiscated 30 bags of fertilizer near Tulkarm that the army said were to be used for explosives. In the northern Gaza Strip, the IDF discovered an explosive device north of the “Nahal Oz” security fence. (Ha’aretz)

The IDF lifted the curfew on Jenin, Army Radio reported. With that move, no Palestinian city was currently under curfew. (Ha’aretz)

Two Hamas activists were killed in the West Bank village of Attil, north of Tulkarm. Troops surrounded a house and ordered those inside to surrender. When the men refused to come out, troops entered the house and fought with the men, who were hiding in a room. Two of the militants were killed and a third was wounded and arrested. (Albawaba.com, AP, Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

The IDF destroyed a two-storey Palestinian house west of the central Gaza Strip town of Deir El-Ballah. According to Palestinian medics, Ahmed Tawashi, the owner of the house, was moderately injured by gunfire when the Israeli soldiers forced him and his family to leave the house. The reason for the demolition was not clear. However, local residents said some Palestinian militants had fired several mortar shells from the area at nearby settlements a few days before. (Xinhua)

In a meeting of senior IDF officers convened by Defence Minister Mofaz, it was decided not to ease restrictions on the Palestinians for the time being. Army Radio quoted security officials as saying that the easing of restrictions would begin when the Palestinians began acting to foil terror attacks. (Ha'aretz)

The PA Ministry of the Interior was preparing to receive European and US police equipment to rebuild a strong Palestinian police force, Ministry sources said. The sources said that the aim of receiving such police equipment was to rehabilitate the different Palestinian security apparatuses for implementation of the security requirements in the Road Map. The equipment is to include jeeps and special vehicles to disperse riots, shields, light pistols and helmets. (DPA, Ha'aretz)

6

Two Palestinians were moderately wounded by gunfire in the village of Jabaa, south-west of Jenin, when Israeli soldiers opened fire on a group of stone-throwers. In Jenin, Israeli troops arrested a Palestinian suspected of belonging to the Islamic Jihad. The Israeli army imposed a curfew on Al-Yamun village, west of Jenin, but the reason was not clear. (AFP)

Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi told reporters that his organization was breaking off talks with the PA Prime Minster on halting attacks on Israelis. He said Prime Minister Abbas had made too many concessions in his speech at the Aqaba Summit. "I believe that Abu Mazen himself … closed the door in front of Hamas because he committed himself in front of Bush and Sharon [to] what Palestinians refused," he said. "So [there is] no way now … to open dialogue with Abu Mazen, because he will come to a dialogue with cuffed hands." Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin said Hamas was ending the dialogue since Abbas had ignored key issues at the Summit like the refugees' right of return. "This is our choice and we have no alternative. [Armed] resistance will continue," he said. "The Israeli enemy continues its raids and they assassinated two people in Tulkarm." PA Minister of Information Abu Amr said that he had not received official word from Hamas about the halt of talks and that contacts between the Palestinian leadership and Hamas leaders abroad were continuing. (AP, Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Activists from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades released a statement conditioning the agreement to a temporary ceasefire on Israel lifting the siege on Chairman Arafat, a halt to assassinations and the release of Palestinian prisoners. (Ha'aretz)

The Islamic Jihad called for dialogue between radical Palestinian factions and Prime Minister Abbas, hours after Hamas had ruled out talks with the Prime Minister. "We want Abu Mazen to open a dialogue with all Palestinian movements," senior leader Mohammed al-Hindi told Agence France-Presse. "He must explain his condemnation of our resistance and why he did not make any reference to the Israeli occupation during his speech at the Aqaba Summit," he said. (AFP)

Palestinian officials said that PA Minister of State for Security Affairs Dahlan had received funds from the United States and Europe to buy illegal weapons from militants. A leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said Mr. Dahlan was offering US$6,000 for each rifle, while officials gave lower figures. Militiamen said Mr. Dahlan had also offered a sign-up bonus of at least $6,000 to Al-Aqsa members who had left the group and joined the security forces. (AP)

Israel Radio quoted PA Foreign Minister Nabil Sha’ath as saying that a monitoring team of 13 Americans led by John Wolf, Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation, was expected to arrive on 9 June. The sending of the team, "charged with helping the parties to move towards peace, monitoring their progress," was announced by President Bush in his speech at the Aqaba Summit on 4 June. (The Jerusalem Post)

Americans for Peace Now (APN), a Jewish-American group, and the Arab American Institute (AAI) in Washington, D.C., launched a joint initiative to promote the Road Map in the Arab-American and Jewish-American communities. "The effort will include a speakers bureau, shared talking points, and co-authored op-eds aimed at urging active US engagement with the Road Map, underscoring the benefits of the initiative, and pointing out the repercussions for Palestinians and Israelis alike if the status quo is allowed to continue," the press release said. (www.aaiusa.org, www.peacenow.org)

7

Israel reimposed its tight control over the West Bank in a decision taken by Defence Minister Mofaz. (AFP, Albawaba.com)

8

Three Palestinians infiltrated an Israeli army outpost at the Erez checkpoint between the Gaza Strip and Israel, killing four Israeli soldiers. The three Palestinians were killed in a 20-minute gun battle. In a joint statement, the Ezzedin al-Qassam Brigades (armed wing of Hamas), the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the Al-Quds Brigades (armed wing of Islamic Jihad) claimed responsibility for the shooting. (AFP, DPA, www.idf.il)

An Israeli soldier and two Palestinians were killed in a gun battle in Hebron. The two Palestinians reportedly fired on Israeli border guards near Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi (Tomb of the Patriarchs). (AFP, www.idf.il)

A Palestinian was killed in an exchange of fire near the Kissufim crossing in the Gaza Strip. He was a member of the National Resistance Brigades, the military wing of the DFLP, according to a statement issued by the group. (AFP)

Nabil Sha’ath, PA Minister for External Affairs, said that Israel had provoked the above attacks by continuing restrictions on Palestinians and killing two Hamas militants on 5 June. He said: "This requires an immediate discussion with the Palestinian factions to bring an end to the fighting and [to ensure that] there is an effort from all sides to make sure this happens." (The Guardian)

Prime Minister Sharon told a Likud Party Central Committee meeting that terrorism had failed. "We will not give anything as long as the terror, violence and incitement continues, but we will be prepared to make painful concessions for real peace and security." He praised PA Prime Minister Abbas for stating publicly that violence must end. He also said at the same meeting, "I will never let any Palestinian refugees enter Israel – never." (AFP, The Guardian)

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that PA Chairman Arafat would be "held to account" if he did anything to undercut the Road Map. He said: "I recognize that he is the elected representative of the PA, and he has standing among Palestinians, but now he has got to use whatever standing he has to make sure that terrorism does not prevail again, by speaking out against it." Speaking to reporters on a flight to Santiago, Chile, Mr. Powell said the US would be closely involved in developing police capabilities and revitalizing the economy of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (AFP, AP, CNN)

In a telephone conversation with his Israeli and PA counterparts, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered Ankara's aid in pursuing the Road Map. He said Turkey was "determined to contribute to efforts to reach a settlement that established two States with internationally recognized borders between Israel and the Palestinian lands." (AFP)

9

The Office of the Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General released the following statement on the recent violent attacks:

At a news conference in Ramallah, PA Prime Minister Abbas appealed for a resumption of ceasefire talks. He said: "We must exert all our efforts to stop this bloodbath and pursue a peaceful settlement." He also said: "Perhaps the Aqaba statement was misunderstood. We think that the dialogue is the only way to achieve our goal. Through this dialogue, we want to achieve calm, not civil war." (Reuters, The Guardian)

PA Chairman Arafat appointed a new head of preventive security in the West Bank. Ziad Habrih from Jenin would replace Zuhair Manasra.The preventive security services would make up the bulk of the apparatus of the PA in order to re-establish its grip on security and crack down on militants. (AFP)

Israeli soldiers destroyed a Palestinian house in Hebron where militants had reportedly taken refuge, while 15 Palestinians on the Israeli wanted list had been rounded up around the West Bank, 11 of them in the Bethlehem area. (AFP, DPA)

Israel barred workers' entry to Israel. The Israeli radio station Y-net,however, announced that Palestinians might go to work in the industrial area of Erez, near where a recent attack had taken place. (DPA)

PA Prime Minister Abbas said in Ramallah that he would not use force against militant groups under any circumstances, despite their stated determination to derail the Road Map with attacks on Israelis. Mr. Abbas also defended himself against complaints that he was too conciliatory towards Israel, stating that he had coordinated all of his moves with PA Chairman Arafat. (AP, BBC, IBA)

PA Prime Minister Abbas refused to hold talks with Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi over the latter's refusal to meet with Chairman Arafat. PA Information Minister Nabil Amr said: "We are very sorry the Italian Prime Minister broke a tradition we have with the Europeans. We hoped he would meet with Arafat and Abu Mazen to have a comprehensive picture of the situation." Mr. Berlusconi was scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Sharon and President Moshe Katsav. Italy is soon to take over the EU's rotating presidency. (AFP, IBA, Reuters)

Israeli soldiers dismantled "Neve Erez," an uninhabited settlement outpost of mobile homes north of Jerusalem. The Israeli military had no immediate comment. (AP, BBC)

Hamas welcomed PA Prime Minister Abbas' call for a resumption of dialogue on halting the armed uprising against Israel. Mahmoud Azar, Hamas' spokesman in Gaza said: "We welcome Abu Mazen's remarks on dialogue." Islamic Jihad spokesman also welcomed Mr. Abbas' opening for a resumption of inter-Palestinian talks but called on deputies to oppose Mr. Abbas' Aqaba speech. (AFP)

PA Prime Minister Abbas said he would submit to the Palestinian Parliament his speech at the Aqaba Summit pledging to put an end to the armed uprising against Israel. He said: "What I announced in Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh is the position to which we are committed and it has been fully coordinated with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat." He added: "We have said in Parliament that we want to end the militarized intifada. We repeat it today." (AFP)

Two Palestinian militants were shot dead by Israeli troops as they attempted to infiltrate the "Netzarim" settlement in the Gaza Strip. An Israeli army spokesman said troops had identified two armed Palestinians moving towards an army post on the outskirts of the settlement and opened fire on them, and the two had been shot dead in the ensuing exchange of fire. The men were carrying a large bag, and security forces were checking to see whether it contained firearms or explosives. (AFP, DPA, Ha'aretz)

The IDF arrested Abdel Jabara, a senior Hamas leader in the Nablus area. (The Jerusalem Post)

Foreign Minister Shalom met with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov in Moscow. "Traditionally, Russia has very good relations in the Middle East and with Arab countries, and can therefore undoubtedly help convince the Palestinians of the need to end the violence and terror," Mr. Shalom said after the talks. Mr. Ivanov welcomed Mr. Shalom's call for Russia to play a more active role in Middle East peacemaking efforts and pledged to continue to interact closely in implementing the agreements fixed in the Road Map. (The Jerusalem Post, www.mid.ru)

10

A wanted Palestinian, Issam Ibrahim, 35, was shot dead during a clash with the Israeli army around a house in the village of Kafr Rahi, some 15 kilometres south-west of Jenin. The clash broke out when Israeli troops surrounded the house of Yussuf Ibrahim, a relative of the dead man. The army also arrested three wanted Islamic Jihad and Fatah members in the village, wounding two of them. (AFP, Ha'aretz)

Israeli troops shot and seriously wounded a Palestinian man as he approached the southern Gaza Strip settlement of "Morag." The man had been on Israeli most-wanted lists, Army Radio reported. (Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Israeli helicopter gunships fired missiles at the car of a senior Hamas leader, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, as it was driving in a crowded thoroughfare in Gaza City. One of his bodyguards and two bystanders, a 3-year-old girl and her 44-year-old mother, were killed. Nearly 30 people were wounded, including Mr. Rantisi, his son and bodyguards. The others were bystanders, three of whom were in critical condition. Mr. Rantisi underwent an operation but was reported to be in stable condition. Witnesses said the gunships had fired as many as seven missiles at the car and at a building where Mr. Rantisi lived. The IDF later released a statement on the attack. (AP, BBC, Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

After the Israeli missile attack against him, Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi told Al-Jazeera from his Gaza hospital bed: "We will fight them with all our might. This is our land, not their land, and we will defend it." Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin told reporters after visiting Mr. Rantisi at the hospital: "Israel is targeting Palestinian civilians, so Israeli civilians should be targeted. From now on, all Israeli people are targets." "We got Israel's message. They should now expect the answer," he said. (AFP, Reuters)

The Office of the Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General released the following statement on the attempted assassination of the Hamas leader by Israel:

Speaking of the Israeli missile attack against the Hamas leader, White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush was "deeply troubled" by the incident. "The President is concerned that the strike will undermine efforts by Palestinian authorities and others to bring an end to terrorist attacks, and does not contribute to the security of Israel," he added. (AFP, AP)

Following the Israeli assassination attempt against the Hamas leader, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement: "We resolutely denounce terrorism and urge the Palestinian Administration to take all the necessary steps to rein in terrorists and extremists … But we also appeal to the Israeli leadership to demonstrate restraint and not to take actions complicating the efforts of the Palestinian Authority … to stop violence through negotiations." The statement added that the attempted assassination of the Hamas leader was "by no means compatible with the Road Map." (AFP)

A few hours after the attack on Hamas leader Rantisi, Israeli helicopters fired missiles towards the Jabalya refugee camp, killing three Palestinians and wounding more than 30 others. The three victims were two 19-year-old men and a 16-year-old girl, all members of the same family. The Israeli army said the helicopters had been trying to hit Palestinian militants spotted fleeing from an area from which they had just fired five Qassam rockets into Israel, injuring at least one person in the nearby town of Sderot. (AFP, AP, Ha'aretz, Reuters)

The IDF overnight removed 10 unpopulated outposts in the West Bank. Those outposts, where troops removed several empty trailers and other structures, included "South Neveh Erez," east of Ramallah, "Shaharit," next to the "Ariel" settlement, "Neve Menachem," next to "Karnei Shomron," and "North Amona," next to the " Ofra" settlement, north-east of Ramallah. Although hundreds of settlers had come to the "North Amona" outpost to form a human blockade attempting to prevent the movement of military forces, the evacuations proceeded without major incident. However, settlers later rebuilt the "North Amona" outpost. Yehoshua Mor-Yosef, spokesman for the "Council of Jewish Settlements in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza District (Yesha Council)," had earlier said that the settlers would do everything they could to avoid clashes with soldiers." But he said: "If we are evacuated … then we will return the next day to 10 hilltops … We will do everything we can to torpedo, obstruct, and to prolong this step." Five more outposts, four of them inhabited, were also to be evacuated. They were "Beit El Mizrach," "Nofei Nehemia," "693," "Sh'vei Shomron," and "Gilad Farm." (Ha'aretz)

Reacting to the Palestinian police's announcement of its willingness to take charge of security at Gaza Airport, the Israeli army ceased evicting them from the area. (The Jerusalem Post)

According to Israel Radi,Defence Minister Mofaz told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee: "It is likely that Arafat will have to be expelled in the near future ... Today isn't the right time, but the situation can change." (The Jerusalem Post)

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi visited Amman on a fact-finding mission to help prepare for his country's EU presidency, which starts on 1 July. He met with King Abdullah for talks focused on the implementation of the Road Map, and also met with Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb. After meeting with Mr. Abu Ragheb, Mr. Berlusconi said that a Middle East peace conference, which his country had offered to host during its EU presidency, would focus on "the economic reconstruction of the Palestinian territories and the entire region." Mr. Berlusconi said the conference would have a "precise commitment" to relaunch peace talks in the region and could be held in Erice, Sicily. He had presented plans for the conference at the G8 Summit at Evian, France, the previous week. (AFP, AP)

UNRWA handed over 19 new homes to refugee families in the Gaza Strip whose shelters had been destroyed by Israeli forces. The new shelters will house 20 families, or 129 refugees. According to the Agency's figures, a total of 1134 shelters, home to over 10,049 refugee and non-refugee Palestinians, had been destroyed or damaged beyond repair in the Gaza Strip by 31 May 2003 since the start of the conflict in September 2000. (www.un.org/unrwa)

According to a poll conducted by Tel Aviv University's Jaffee Institute for Strategic Studies, a rising majority of Israelis agreed to the evacuation of a large number of settlements, and Israelis in general were feeling more secure and open to compromise than they had in 2002. Fifty-nine per cent of the Israeli public was willing to remove all settlements located outside major settlement blocs, as opposed to only 50 per cent who had expressed such willingness in a parallel survey conducted the previous year. Asked if they would support a unilateral withdrawal from the Occupied Palestinian Territory in the context of a peace accord, even if that meant ceding all settlements, 56 per cent said that they would, versus 48 per cent last year. Concessions inside the Jerusalem area received an agreement of 43 per cent, a rise of 3 per cent since 2002. Fifty-nine per cent of respondents favoured the establishment a Palestinian State in the context of a peace agreement. However, only 40 per cent believed the Road Map was the way to achieve such an agreement. Over 1,000 Jewish adults participated in the poll, which had been conducted in the past two months in the light of the recent political developments. (The Jerusalem Post)

"The EU Presidency strongly condemns yesterday's rocket attacks by Israeli Defence Forces," said a statement issued in Greece, which currently holds the EU presidency, adding further: "These attacks ... undermine the peace efforts and complicate further Prime Minister Abbas's attempts to halt violence and terrorism by Palestinian factions. This kind of retaliation and extrajudicial killings perpetuate the cycle of violence and further deteriorate the security environment. In this crucial period, we call upon both parties to abstain from acts of violence and to remain committed to the path of negotiations." (AP, www.eu2003.gr)

Israeli Channel One TV revealed the details of an agreement Prime Minister Sharon had reached with the US Administration, under which no construction would be permitted in existing settlements "except within the area circumscribed by existing construction. "Israel also promised not to build any new settlements and not to expropriate any Palestinian land for construction purposes. In exchange, Washington agreed to remove the settlements from the framework of the Road Map and to conduct separate talks on the issue. The agreement had been negotiated during a visit to Washington in early May by Dov Weisglass, the Prime Minister's Bureau Chief, following discussions held in Jerusalem the previous month with White House envoys Elliot Abrams and Steven Hadley. It replaced the understandings reached in 2001 by then Foreign Minister Peres and Secretary of State Powell, which the US Administration later denied. The main difference between the two agreements lay in the fact that in the 2001 version, Israel conditioned any settlement freeze on an end to Palestinian violence, whereas in the current version, the freeze was unconditional. In neither version did Washington accept Israel's demand that building to accommodate the settlements' "ongoing needs" be permitted. (Ha'aretz)

Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan renewed an offer to host a peace conference to help bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians. A similar offer had been made in 2002. "Turkey is making preparations to host [a meeting] as part of the Middle East peace process," Mr. Erdogan told lawmakers, adding that he hoped Turkey would contribute to efforts to find a lasting solution to the conflict. In a newspaper interview published the same day, Mr. Erdogan was quoted as saying that both sides had responded warmly to the Turkish offer. However, there was no indication of any preparations for such a conference. (Ha'aretz)

11

Italian Prime Minister Sylvio Berlusconi, speaking at a joint news conference in Cairo with President Mubarak and referring to the failed attempt on the life of Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, stopped short of denouncing the attack, saying: "Even if I understand Israel's reaction, Israel must demonstrate greater wisdom, prudence and lucidity." Mr. Berlusconi also said that preparations were under way for a meeting between him and Prime Minister Abbas, which he said could take place sometime this month, despite earlier reports that Mr. Abbas refused to meet him after Mr. Berlusconi said he would not meet with Chairman Arafat. (AFP, DPA)

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said China hoped that both Israel and Palestine would avoid actions which could worsen the situation. Mr. Kong said China expressed its serious concern about the incident, given that such actions would not be helpful to regional peace and stability, and hoped the two sides would maintain the good momentum that had emerged in the Middle East peace process. (Comtex Global News)

"France condemns the Israeli operations that notably targeted at eliminating a Hamas leader and killed Palestinian civilians," said François Rivasseau, spokesman of the French Foreign Ministry. " Hardly days after the Summit in Aqaba, which relaunched the hope of a negotiated peace, this operation is inconsistent with the willingness expressed by the Israeli Government to support the efforts of the Palestinian Prime Minister to achieve an end of violence," said the spokesman, adding that it was a matter of urgency to implement the Road Map. (AP)

"Our policy remains the same. The Israel Defence Forces will continue to work against terrorism in every place," Israeli Army Radio quoted Prime Minister Sharon as telling his ministers before a Cabinet meeting. Mr. Sharon made it clear that insofar as terror was concerned, there would be no concessions, adding that he had made this clear in all of his conversations with the White House and the US State Department," his office said in a statement, adding: "These clarifications have been made over the years, were made at Aqaba, and have been made to all leaders and countries which maintain ties with Israel." The statement also argued that an attempt to assassinate Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi was not a violation of Mr. Sharon's commitment to the Road Map affirmed at Aqaba: "Prime Minister Sharon said that there is nothing in Israel's security activity that is against peace since it strengthens the possibility of peace and because there can be no progress towards peace as long as terror exists." (AFP, AP, DPA)

Egypt's intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, arrived in Ramallah in an attempt to restore calm after the assassination attempt, and met with Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Abbas. Mr. Suleiman carried a message from President Mubarak that he was willing to host ceasefire talks between Palestinian leaders and groups. He also renewed an earlier Egyptian proposal that Hamas and the other militants agree to a one-year truce. PA Minister of Information Nabil Amr said Mr. Suleiman's visit was aimed at "promoting a truce" to boost the implementation of the Road Map. (AFP, AP, DPA, IBA)

Prime Minister Blair said Israel should remove a barrier it was building around the West Bank but said Israeli-Palestinian peace talks had to make headway first. Mr. Blair said it was important Israelis were given security guarantees as part of the peace process: "It is precisely because we want to see the situation change, including removing security measures such as that, that we are engaged in a process now of discussion with the Israelis and Palestinians to try to ensure we gain progress. I understand the concerns about the security fence, but the only way of making sure those things are off the agenda is to get a proper peace agenda moving forward." (Reuters)

An electronic fence and wall are to be built around the IDF outpost at the Erez crossing where four Israeli soldiers were killed on 8 June. (IBA)

The overnight dismantling of five inhabited Israeli settlement outposts was postponed pending a High Court of Justice ruling on appeals against the measure, Israeli Army Radio said. The evacuation was due to complete the list of 15 announced by the Israeli Government, after a first batch of 10 uninhabited outposts was dismantled the night before. One of them was "Gilad Farm," an outpost that had been dismantled four times in recent years. It was named after Gilad Zar, a settler killed in a Palestinian attack in 2001 and wass run by his father, Moshe, one of the founders of the "Itamar" settlement and a leading Jewish land dealer in the West Bank. Mr. Zar filed a petition with the Supreme Court, arguing that he legally owned the land he lived on. The Yesha Council initiated legal action in a bid to prevent the dismantling of four more outposts: "Nofei Nehemia," "Shavei Shomron," "Mitzpe Yitzhar" and "Beit El East." On the night of 10 June, inhabitants of "Yitzhar" settlement and its four satellite outposts, including "Mitzpe Yitzhar," attacked neighbouring Palestinian villages south of Nablus, wounding one Palestinian and burning several acres of crops. (AFP, IBA)

A suicide bomber, dressed as a religious Jew, blew himself up on Egged bus No.14 on Jaffa Road, close to the intersection with King George Street in central Jerusalem. At least 17 people, including the Palestinian bomber, were killed and at over 90 injured, many seriously. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. About an hour later, at least seven Palestinians – two Hamas officials and five others – were killed and 30 wounded when two Israeli Apache attack helicopters fired missiles at a car in the eastern neighbourhood of Shejaeya in Gaza City. Al-Manar TV reported that that among those killed had been Masoud al-Titti, head of the Hamas military wing Izz ad-Din al-Qassam. Shortly after the Jerusalem attack, in a telephone interview with Al-Manar TV, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi said that it was "the right of the Palestinian people to resist" and called the bombing a "natural Hamas response to Israeli crimes." He added: "Our people will teach the Israeli enemy tough lessons until the Israelis stop their terror and crimes against them. [Prime Minister] Sharon should understand the Palestinian people would never drop their arms and will continue their resistance until the Israeli enemy loses its mind." (AP, DPA, Ha'aretz, IBA, www.mfa.gov.il)

The following statement attributable to the Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was released in New York:


The [US] President condemns the [Jerusalem] attack in the strongest possible terms," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said shortly after the President learned of the attack while on board Air Force One. President Bush later told reporters: "I call upon all the free world, nations which love peace, to not only condemn the killings but to use every ounce of their power to prevent them from happening in the future." (AP, Reuters)

The Presidency of the European Union condemns in the strongest possible terms today's suicide bombing in Jerusalem," said a statement issued in Greece, which currently holds the EU Presidency, expressing further "its gravest concern at the latest outburst of violence which clearly aims at the window of opportunity that has been recently created." The Presidency called "on all those involved to make every possible effort so that the vicious circle of hatred and confrontation be turned into a virtuous one of dialogue and peace." (AFP, www.eu2003.gr)

The Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories will visit Egypt, Jordan and Syria from 13 to 24 June. The Committee plans to hold hearings in Cairo from 14 to 16 June in Amman from 17 to 20 June, and in Damascus from 21 to 23 June. (Comtex Global News)

Some 2,000 people turned out to mourn Mohammad, Hamuda and Mariam Abed Rabbo, killed by a missile fired from an Israeli helicopter, which missed its target on the night of 10 June. The strike was aimed at a vehicle carrying members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (armed wing of Hamas) who had just fired rockets on Israel from an area near Jabalya. "We are asking the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam to stop firing rockets from areas near our houses, because Israel uses this as an excuse to shell us and causes daily tragedies," Abdelhaye Abed Rabbo said after burying his siblings and cousins. "We support the jihad and the resistance but not shelling from around our homes. Hamas must fire its rockets from other areas," said the 40-year-old farmer. (AFP)

PA Chairman Arafat called for an immediate cessation of violence, saying terrorist attacks "by all parties" must stop instantly. He appealed to all Palestinian factions "to avoid being dragged into the trap set up by Israel in order to destroy efforts aimed at savaging the peace process." PA Prime Minister Abbas called for Palestinian militants and Israel to halt all attacks and said immediate steps should be taken to implement the Road Map. Speaking on Al-Jazeera television, Mr. Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi rejected the call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and vowed to continue terrorist attacks against Israel. (Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Several Israeli helicopters flew over Gaza late at night with one firing two rockets killing two members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (armed wing of Hamas) in their car. The raid took place in the Zeitoun district of Gaza. Hamas confirmed that two of its men, Rami Abu Kemil and Mohammad Daghmosh, had died in the raid. Five Palestinians were wounded. An Israeli security source said the raid had targeted a terrorist cell and was not linked with the suicide attack in Jerusalem. (AFP)

In a press encounter with US Secretary of State Powell following a luncheon meeting in Washington, Secretary-General, Kofi Annan said:


UNRWA protested to the Israeli Government at the actions of its security services that had prevented its entire headquarters management from leaving the Gaza Strip to attend a high-level meeting. Security procedures enforced on 11 June at the Erez checkpoint out of Gaza prevented Peter Hansen, UNRWA's Commissioner-General, a UN Under-Secretary-General and a senior management team from making it to the Agency's directors' meeting in Amman. Mr. Hansen said: "These continuing restrictions are a clear violation of the international agreements to which Israel is a signatory … Today's events are unacceptable, because they hamper the operations of the largest humanitarian organization working in the occupied Palestinian territory." (Press release HQ/G/11/2003)

The Israeli High Court of Justice extended interim injunctions preventing the army from dismantling three "illegal" West Bank settlement outposts: "Gilad Farm," "Shavei Shomron West," and "Givat Yitzhar." The hearings would involve petitions regarding the army's intention to dismantle the settlement outposts. According to the State's representative Shai Nitzan, by asking for a hearing the petitioners were simply doing what they always did, namely, stalling for time. (Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

The Shin Bet security agency and the Jerusalem police revealed that they had recently arrested the former bodyguard of Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Ahmed Qurei for planning to perpetrate a terrorist attack in the coming days. Fatah member Jimil Faraon, 30, had been arrested on 31 May. In the West Bank, security officials arrested 22 Palestinians affiliated with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. (The Jerusalem Post)

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IDF helicopters fired missiles at a car in Gaza City, killing at least seven people and wounding more than 30. Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said those killed were Yasser Taha, a member of the Hamas military wing, his wife, and the couple's two children, aged 3 and 5. Their car was travelling in the Sheik Radwan neighbourhood of Gaza City when it was hit by three missiles. Three other passersby were killed when they rushed toward the burning vehicle, which was hit by a fourth missile. The streets had been crowded with mourners who were attending the funeral of 11 people killed in two previous missile strikes. A witness said Israeli warplanes had flown over Gaza City to muffle the helicopter noise and avoid warning the targets. (DPA, Ha'aretz, Reuters)

US President Bush told reporters during a visit to Chicago: "For the people in the world who want to see peace in the Middle East, I strongly urge all of you to fight off terror, to cut off money to organizations such as Hamas, to isolate those who hate so much that they're willing to kill to stop peace from going forward." British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw also called for international efforts to cut off funds to Palestinian militant groups, and urged the EU to consider sanctions . (Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

US Secretary of State Powell called on Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher to try to save the Road Map. "We have to keep moving forward, it would be a disaster if we lost the opportunity," Mr. Powell told reporters at the State Department. He added, "It is incumbent on every nation around the world to speak out and put the hammer down on Hamas, the PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad], and stop funding them, stop allowing any resources to go to them." Secretary Powell was preparing to meet in Aqaba with leaders of the Quartet in an effort to repair the Road Map. The tentative date was 22 June . (Albawaba.com, AP, Ha'aretz)

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher blamed the Israeli occupation for much of the ongoing violence between the two sides. "Occupation is the root cause of the problem," he told reporters. In separate talks with the US and Greek Ambassadors in Cairo, Mr. Maher urged the international community to stop the cycle of Palestinian-Israeli violence. He hoped that the previous week's peace summit in Egypt and Jordan had raised the "need for the concerned powers to intervene to prevent these hopes from being dashed." (AFP, DPA)

A Palestinian, identified as Mahmoud Al-Jaal, 50, died of wounds sustained during the raid accompanying the assasination attempt against Mr. al-Rantissi. (AFP)

The PA Cabinet members warned that if no progress was made on the Road Map within the next two weeks, its members would resign. Mohammed Dahlan, Minister of State for Security Affairs, reportedly said that the Cabinet was giving the dialogue with Israel two weeks to progress before resigning . (Ha'aretz)

The Government of Italy and the UNDP/PAPP initiated an emergency programme in the Bethlehem district, worth US$500,000, aimed at generating immediate and long-term employment through the revitalization of the handicraft industry. The project would be implemented in cooperation with the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce, the Franciscan Terra Santa College and the Silesian Vocational Training School. (www.jerusalem-times.net)

According to a new survey by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) published in June 2003, more than 60 per cent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza lived below the poverty line. The median monthly income in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had declined from 2,500 Israeli shekels before the outbreak of the intifada of September 2000 to 1,400 shekels in March 2003. (www.jerusalem-times.net)

The Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), James T. Morris, began a three-day visit to Jerusalem to review WFP's first-hand efforts to provide food aid to Palestinians. "Coping mechanisms are exhausted and poor families are selling vital assets such as jewelry, livestock and even land in order to purchase food and basic necessities," said the WFP representative in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Jean-Luc Siblot. "Many are caught in a downward spiral of indebtedness that results in a deepening poverty … Palestinian families have had to change their dietary habits, consuming cheaper and less protein-rich foods," Mr. Siblot said. (www.wfp.org)

Israeli troops killed two Islamic Jihad militants in Jenin. The troops had come to arrest the two men, and killed them when they threatened to shoot. One of the men was identified as Salah Jeradat, a senior member of the organization. (Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Avner Maimon, 49, from Netanya, was killed in a shooting attack. His body was found in a car near the village of Yabad, west of Jenin. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility. (Ha'aretz, Reuters)

The Israeli authorities reopened the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip following a four-day closure, according to Egyptian border police. Israel had closed the crossing on 8 June after a Palestinian attack that had killed four Israeli soldiers at the Erez crossing. (AFP)

US officials said Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf would leave for Jerusalem as early as 14 June to lead a US team that would monitor progress under the Road Map and meet withIsraeli and Palestinian leaders. (Reuters)

In an interview with Ha'aretz, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, "The monitoring mechanism that will be put in place next week is a beginning and it may be enough if the parties are able to break the cycle of violence. In the interim period, I would like to see an armed peacekeeping force act as a buffer between the Israelis and the Palestinians." On the Palestine refugee issue, Mr. Annan said the issue should be resolved at the negotiating table between Israel and the Palestinians, with the support of the Quartet and the international community. He said General Assembly resolution 194 (III) was "still on the books and still valid" until another agreement was reached. But he added, "I'm not certain that all the refugees would want to go back. There may be some other arrangements and other supplements and compensation and a whole package that may come out of the negotiations." (Ha'aretz)

The Women's Partnership for Peace in the Middle East, a group of Palestinian and Israeli women seeking a greater role for women in achieving regional peace, opened the first meeting in Oslo. About 70 women from both sides said they aimed to build a parallel peace initiative. "No one has so far been able to stop the extremists on both sides. Maybe women can," said Riva Beller, an Israeli businesswoman. "We need to stop blaming each other about the past and look ahead." Labiba Habash, heading the Palestinian delegation, argued that the Road Map would be worthless unless Israelis withdrew from the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The delegates aimed to issue a joint peace statement at the end of the meeting on 14 June. The meeting was to be followed by a second round in Jerusalem in November and a third in Washington thereafter. (Reuters)

Secretary-General of the Arab League Amre Moussa called for "the rapid dispatch of American observers to the Palestinian territories to halt the bloodshed" and allow implementation of the Road Map. "We should all act to halt the violence and bloodshed, and freeze the situation on the ground so as to restore calm," Mr. Moussa told reporters after a meeting with senior PLO official Farouk Kaddoumi. (AFP)

13

Palestinian militants fired a Qassam rocket at the Negev town of Sderot, and the rocket landed on a house in a residential area. The rocket penetrated the roof and part of the ceiling collapsed. Seven people were treated for shock, but no serious injuries were reported. (Ha'aretz)

Israeli helicopter gunships fired at least two missiles at a car in the Sabra neighbourhood in Gaza City. At least one Palestinian was killed and 26 others were wounded, including seven children, medical sources said. The dead man was identified as Fuad al-Ledawi, a member of the military wing of Hamas. Israeli army officials quoted by the Israeli media said the targeted car had been carrying militants on their way to fire Qassam rockets at an Israeli target. Four people were in the car, witnesses said. According to the BBC,Mr. al-Ledawi was not a senior member of Hamas's military wing but was said to have been an aide to Tito Massoud, a Hamas operative killed earlier in the week. (Albawaba.com, AP, BBC, DPA, Deutsche Welle (DW), Ha'aretz, Reuters)

An Israeli was killed in a shooting attack in Jenin. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed the responsibility. (Ha'aretz)

The IDF demolished the Hebron home of the suicide bomber who had carried out the bus attack in Jerusalem on 11 June. In the village of Dura, near Hebron, the IDF also demolished the home of a Fatah militant who had carried out several shooting attacks. (DPA, Ha'aretz, Reuters)

In a statement sent to news agencies, Hamas said, "The Jerusalem [bus] attack is the beginning of a new series of revenge attacks … in which we will target every Zionist occupying our land. We call on all military cells to act immediately and act like an earthquake. We call on international citizens to leave [Israel] immediately to preserve their lives." Hamas sources said that the group was holding to its policy of not deliberately attacking foreigners. (Ha'aretz)

According to an Israeli security official, Israel had activated a new contingency plan for targeting top Hamas leaders, including founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. The plan had been formulated several months earlier but put off because of the Road Map. The plan was activated after the group had rejected ceasefire talks with Prime Minister Abbas, according to the official. The official said Hamas leaders were considered "ticking bombs" and therefore were legitimate targets because they set policy and ordered attacks on Israelis. Avi Pazner, a Government spokesman, said, "There is no immunity for anybody who either orders or executes terrorist activities." Military correspondent Alex Fishman wrote in the Yediot Ahronot daily, "From now on, everyone is in the crosshairs all the time." Raanan Gissin, an adviser to Prime Minister Sharon, said, "We don't target political leaders, but if those leaders have politics of murder, we go after them." Deputy Defence Minister Zeev Boim told Army Radio,"As a Government responsible for the security of its citizens, we must wage war to the bitter end [against Hamas] because no one else, at least at this stage, will do it." (AP, DPA, Reuters)

The Yesha council of West Bank rabbis issued a statement calling on Arab countries to grant Palestinians "the right of return to Arab lands." The rabbis also called on the Israeli Government to implement a biblical injunction against allowing non-Jews to settle in "the Land of Israel." (Ha'aretz)

UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast briefed the UN Security Council on "The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question." (UN News Centre, UN press release SC/7792)

The Office of the Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General released the following statement on the upcoming meeting of the Quartet in Amman:

According to a survey conducted by the Mina Tzemah/Dahaf polling company and published in the Yediot Ahronot daily, most Israelis opposed the latest round of airborne strikes against Palestinian militants. The survey found that 58 per cent of Israelis believed that Israel should temporarily halt the killing of militants to give the new Palestinian Prime Minister time to establish himself in his position. Nine per cent said they wanted the military strikes to stop altogether, and 30 per cent said they should continue. The poll also showed that 67 per cent of Israelis agreed with recent statements by Prime Minister Sharon that Israel must end its occupation of Palestinian land. The survey questioned a representative sample of 501 Israelis and had an error of margin of 4.5 per cent. Another poll published in the Ma'ariv daily showed that 57 per cent of Israelis supported the Road Map. However, 67 per cent said they did not believe Prime Minister Abbas would keep his promise to fight terrorism. (AP, DPA, The Jerusalem Post)

Israel rejected the idea of deploying a peacekeeping force to defuse violence, as suggested by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his interview with Ha'aretz. Questioned by reporters, Ambasador Arye Mekel, Deputy Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN, said: "We do not think we need any foreign forces." "There is no need for any intervention of any foreign power," he added after Security Council debate on the situation in the Middle East. He also said Mr. Annan had not informed his Government of such a proposal. "We do not think there is merit in this issue," said Mr. Mekel, adding: "The only way to a solution is the two sides talking together." (AFP)

The IDF launched two missile attacks in the Gaza Strip, bringing the number of such attacks since 10 June to seven. In the first helicopter strike of the day, IDF said in a statement that its forces had "identified and fired at a terrorist cell in Gaza City planning to fire Qassam rockets at Israeli communities." The attack killed a Hamas activist and wounded 26 other people, many of them children. The second strike three to four hours later targeted the nearby home of a well-known Hamas family, causing damage but no casualties. "IDF helicopters attacked an arms workshop for Qassam rockets, mortar shells and other weapons," said an IDF spokesman. An IDF statement also said that "the resulting blast was caused by the exploding Qassam rockets and other weapons." (DPA, Reuters, www.idf.il; see DF of 13 June 2003)

The Israeli Prime Minister's Office Chief Dov Weisglass had delivered a ceasefire proposal to PA Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, according to a senior Palestinian source. Under the terms of the ceasefire, initially to last three days, Israel would stop all attempts to assassinate Palestinian militants in exchange for an agreement by Hamas to halt all attacks on Israel, including the firing of Qassam rockets. Following the three-day period, the truce would be renewed on a daily basis while the two sides discussed plans for a comprehensive ceasefire. The offer was discussed late in the day at a meeting between Chairman Arafat and his security chiefs. Chairman Arafat's senior adviser, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, earlier said the meeting had been called to discuss a US ceasefire proposal, adding: "It will continue in the morning to follow up on all the issues and to adopt measures and decisions that will serve the higher Palestinian cause." Among those attending were PA Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan, head of national security in the West Bank and Gaza Gen. Abdul Razeq al-Majaida, head of public security in Gaza City Saeb al-Aajez, and intelligence chief Gen. Amin al-Hindi. (AFP)

Israeli Army Radio said Defence Minister Mofaz was ready to pull the army out of the Gaza Strip if PA Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammad Dahlan took responsibility for policing the territory and pledged to stop Hamas from using it to fire rockets into Israel. "We are ready to take responsibility for any area that Israel withdraws from in the framework of the Road Map," PA Information Minister Nabil Amr said. (AFP)

A Palestinian civilian, 41-year-old Salim Said Salkha, died after being seriously wounded a day earlier in an Israeli helicopter raid in northern Gaza City which left a senior Hamas militant dead. His death brought to eight the number of people killed in the strike. 14 June saw the deaths of an 8-year-old girl critically wounded in the 10 June missile attack on Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, and of Nabil Jaradat, 47, who had been wounded by Israeli gunfire near Jenin a week earlier. (AFP)

14

Khaled Sakar, 19, died after being hit in the chest by a bullet fired by IDF troops responding to a group of youths throwing stones at them just outside the Askar refugee camp in Nablus. Three other Palestinians were moderately injured. (AFP)

According to an IDF statement, an Israeli killed the day before in Jenin was a soldier and the incident had occurred in a shooting attack against IDF forces during "operational activity" in the city. (www.idf.il; see DF of 13 June 2003)

Speaking of the possibility of a ceasefire with Israel, senior Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi observed: "Hamas is rejecting any call for ceasefire under occupation… The word ceasefire is not in our dictionary." The next day, Khaled Meshaal, the head of the Political Bureau of Hamas, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur that his group would not agree to a truce offered by Israel, adding that the Palestinian people would reject a plan that denied any of their rights. Mr. Meshaal said any attempt to calm the situation should focus on the aggressor, who should end its occupation, and there should be no pressure put on the Palestinian people to abandon their right to self-defence. "The Israeli aggression against our people does not ensure positive climates for any dialogue with [Mahmoud] Abbas' Government, because the dialogue is connected to definite demands concerning a truce," he said. (AFP, DPA)

US envoy John Wolf, who was to monitor implementation of the Road Map as a head of a 12-member team, arrived in the region in the evening. Israeli Public Radio said he had talks with Avi Dichter, head of Israel's General Security Service (Shin Beth), and was to meet Prime Minister Sharon, Foreign Minister Shalom, Defence Minister Mofaz and military and security service officials on 16 June. Palestinian sources said Mr. Wolf would also have talks with Palestinian officials. (AFP)

15

A three-hour meeting on security matters between the Palestinians and Israelis ended early without the resolution of disagreements, according to a news report. CNN said the meeting was described as "positive" by the Palestinian side and that both sides could meet again soon. A Palestinian spokesman said the security issue was gaining momentum. The Palestinians also said that despite the escalation of violence in the past several days the question of confidence-building measures had been discussed, including the release of Palestinian prisoners and the reconstruction of the international airport in Gaza. In addition, the Palestinians expressed their interest in assuming control of the security of two West Bank towns and the Israelis said they wanted to examine the Palestinian proposals, CNN quoted an unidentified Palestinian spokesman as saying. The meeting between the Israeli security coordinator Maj.-Gen. Amos Gilad and PA Minister Mohammed Dahlan was held at the Tel Aviv residence of US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer. Later in the day, Israeli Army Radio reported that Israel was preparing to withdraw from the Gaza Strip after coming under pressure from the US. Israel was awaiting a detailed Palestinian proposal concerning the transfer of security control in the northern part of the Gaza Strip to the PA, security sources told Ha'aretz,adding that Israel had also agreed to consider positively the Palestinian request to quickly expand the plan to the Bethlehem region. (DPA)

During the morning an Israeli undercover unit entered the home of 30-year-old Rafat al-Zaani, a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, in Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip and shot him dead. In the ensuing exchange of fire, two other Palestinians were wounded. (AFP, DPA)

Three Palestinians were wounded by Israeli gunfire in Rafah, Palestinian medical sources said, adding that one of them was in critical condition. IDF sources said the three were armed and had attempted to ambush an Israeli outpost on the border with Egypt, with one of them throwing grenades at the troops. Soldiers opened fire, hitting the grenade thrower who was then dragged away by his two accomplices to a nearby building. A firefight then broke out between troops and the two other gunmen, who were both wounded. The three then escaped. Israeli troops were also reportedly razing agricultural land in the central Gaza Strip just outside Deir al-Balah in an area close to the "Kfar Darom" settlement, Palestinian security sources said. (AFP)

According to an IDF statement its forces had confiscated a sniping rifle and ammunition in the area of the "Givat Harsinah" settlement in Hebron. In addition, IDF forces had arrested 10 wanted Palestinians in the West Bank. (www.idf.il)

Israeli security forces in Bethlehem arrested Issa Batat, a local leader of Islamic Jihad. Palestinian security sources said Mr. Batat was taken into custody without a fight in a house in the Al-Bayaad neighbourhood where the army had earlier imposed a curfew. The Israelis had tried to kill the militant two years earlier, but he had escaped with injuries. An IDF statement said that his deputy and another militant had also been arrested, and listed a number of anti-Israeli attacks that the arrested men had reportedly been connected to. (AFP,www.idf.il)

Israeli troops arrested two Palestinian cameramen working for international news agencies in the Gaza Strip. Kamel Ziara (Associated Press)and Bassem Masrud (Reuters) were arrested at the Abu Houli checkpoint in the central Gaza Strip as they followed Egyptian officials who had crossed into the Strip from the southern border at Rafah. Several other Palestinians were rounded up by the IDF after the Egyptian delegation headed by Gen. Mustapha Buheeri passed the checkpoint and made its way to Gaza City for talks with Palestinian factions. (AFP)

An Israeli Cabinet communiqué quoted Prime Minister Sharon as saying at the weekly Cabinet meeting: "Israel would welcome a ceasefire, should one be attained. Provided that Israel is not attacked, we will not retaliate except for essential operations in self-defence, such as in the case of a ticking bomb." (AFP, www.pmo.gov.il)

The Israeli Prime Minister's Office in a statement indicated that the two British Muslims who had been involved in the bombing at Mike's Place on 30 April 2003 had been sent by the Hamas military command in the Gaza Strip. (AFP, www.pmo.gov.il)

Two settlement outposts were dismantled in the West Bank: the IDF took down the "Assael" outpost near Hebron after evacuating a handful of resident settlers who had staged a peaceful protest, while another near the "Neve Tzuf" settlement, north-west of Ramallah, was taken down by Israeli police. The latter had been set up after Palestinian gunmen had shot and wounded two Israeli women in the area on 13 June 2003. In the meantime, Peace Now had "spotted four new rogue settlements, which didn't exist a week ago, during an overflight of the West Bank on Friday," its spokesman said, adding that the new outposts were made up solely of caravans parked on hilltops near the "Kohav Ha Shahar," "Rehalim," "Ofra" and "Elon Moreh" settlements. (AFP)

Pope John Paul II renewed an appeal for peace in the Middle East, saying in his Sunday angelus at St. Peter's Square: "I want to repeat an appeal I have made before: there is no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness. I repeat it again today, with added conviction, addressing myself to all the inhabitants of the Holy Land. Once more we have suffered days of blood and death for the inhabitants of the Holy Land, drawn into an endless spiral of violence and reprisals. I also exhort the international community not to tire of helping the Israelis and the Palestinians to regain a sense of humanity and fraternity in order to weave their future together." (AFP)

US Senator Richard Lugar, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Fox News that US forces, acting either alone or as part of an international force, could be used to quell Israeli and Palestinian disputes "and, maybe even more important, to root out the terrorism that is at the heart of the problem ... Clearly, if force is required, ultimately to rout out terrorism, it is possible that there will be an American participation. It's possible that [Mahmoud] Abbas simply does not have security forces that are adequate to take on Hamas, quite apart from even the territories being suggested for his security now… But having said that, I would just say this is down the trail. We have to be very, very careful about the use of American forces, whether they are to be all by themselves, whether with NATO, whether with the UN. At this point, Kofi Annan of the UN has suggested UN peacekeepers, maybe even armed peacekeepers. There have been suggestions that NATO may be involved, that the United States may be involved," said Sen. Lugar, adding: "Never underestimate President George Bush. Once his teeth are into this situation, there are likely to be unforeseen circumstances, and the security situation may change." (AFP, Reuters)

The PLO Executive Committee convened in the evening, chaired by Chairman Yasser Arafat, in his office in Ramallah. The meeting considered the recent developments and discussed efforts to implement the Road Map. The Committee asserted that achieving a ceasefire required an Israeli halt to settlement activities and extrajudicial killings, the release of all Palestinian prisoners and an end to all actions that could sabotage the efforts to achieve a comprehensive and equitable peace, in addition to an Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories and the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital. The Committee emphasized its readiness to cooperate with the American delegation headed by US envoy John Wolf and the Quartet on the implementation of the Road Map. (IPC-WAFA)

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Egyptian envoys failed to achieve a breakthrough in two days of talks with Palestinian militants aimed at arranging a ceasefire with Israel. Representatives of Hamas and other militant groups said they had demanded international guarantees for a halt to Israeli military strikes on their leaders before they would agree to stop their own attacks on Israelis. The Egyptian delegation left Gaza in the afternoon and Mohammed al-Hindi, leader of the Islamic Jihad in Gaza, said the talks would continue, either in Gaza or in Cairo. Ismail Abu Shanab, a senior Hamas leader, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur that his movement was studying ideas put forward by the Egyptian mediators but added it was still "premature" to give an answer. He said no ceasefire could take place under threats from Prime Minister Sharon and under threats from Israel to assassinate prominent militants. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Israel would reject any short-term ceasefire with the militant groups since they could exploit a truce of a several months to rebuild their infrastructure and then resume attacks the moment they could. (DPA, Reuters)

The Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories started a new round of consultations, its chairman said on 15 June in Cairo. "The situation has become critical and the Palestinians will feel at least that they are being listened to," Ambassador C. Mahendran, Chairman of the Committee, told reporters following talks with Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher. (AFP)

In the PA's first formal discussions with EU foreign ministers in three years, PA Foreign Minister Nabil Sha'ath held breakfast talks with his EU counterparts before the two-day meeting of the EU Council of General Affairs and External Relations in Luxembourg. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin was expected to present to the meeting his proposal on dispatching a peacekeeping force to the Middle East. On his arrival, Mr. Sha'ath told reporters: "We support it fully and we think the deployment of interposition troops has become extremely important in restoring peace in the area. This is something we support very much." Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose country holds the EU Presidency, told a joint news conference with Mr. Sha'ath that the EU was ready to help with monitoring implementation of the Road Map, but it was too soon to consider a peacekeeping force. Mr. Sha'ath also said: "If everything succeeds in the next days and the Israelis accept their responsibility to end assassinations, killing, destruction and incursions, and abide by a ceasefire... then there will be no need now for an international force," adding that the interposition force proposal should be kept as a "viable possibility" if the peace process faltered. EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, who also took part in the meeting, expressed reservations about the French proposal, saying: "I don't know if the situation is mature now to do that… It is doubtless an interesting idea, which may possibly be necessary, but we should concentrate now on the question of security and the implementation of the Road Map." Israel, meanwhile, rejected the proposal, with Prime Minister Sharon's spokesman Ra'anan Gissin telling Agence France-Presse: "There will be no international force here. The only thing that Israel has accepted is the presence of observers for the implementation of the various stages of the Road Map." (AFP, Reuters)

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said in an interview with Ha'aretz that the EU still believed it could contribute to peace in the Middle East, despite frequent disagreements with Israel. "I think it is Israel that must change its attitude towards the EU and its policy," said Mr. Aznar, adding: "Israel must understand that there is complete understanding between Europe and the United States regarding the promotion of the Road Map and working together." Mr. Aznar also criticized Israel's policy of targeted killings as "mistaken decisions" and disagreed with the policy of isolating Chairman Arafat, saying: "The person who turned Arafat into a problem [Prime Minister Sharon] has to explain to us what the solution to this problem is. If he doesn't do so, the problem will continue. In any case, isolating Arafat is not the solution. He must be allowed to move around, to travel." (AFP)

Foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) States met in Jeddah to discuss the situation in Iraq and in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Foreign Minister of Qatar emphasized the support of the GCC States to the Palestinian people to regain their legitimate rights, including a right to an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital. He also welcomed the announcement of the Road Map and stressed that all parties, particularly Israel, have to take active and serious steps as a sign of a commitment and sincere implementation to all its articles and references. (DPA)

The Knesset held its first debate on the Road Map, initiated by some 40 MKs from opposition parties, who had asked Prime Minister Sharon to explain whether the plan could be jeopardized by Israel's policy of targeted killings. Minutes ahead of the debate, Mr. Sharon told his Likud parliamentary members that the violent days since the Aqaba summit meeting "are the birth pangs of the diplomatic process... This will be a complicated and complex process upon which we need to work responsibly." "We cannot achieve a political arrangement, and certainly not a peace deal, when terror runs rampant," he told the lawmakers who voted 57 to 42 in the Prime Minister's favour in a non-binding resolution. (Comtex Global News, Reuters)

US Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice held private talks with Prime Minister Sharon’s Chief of Staff Dov Weisglass, in what US officials described as ongoing consultations about the Road Map. Israel Radio reported that Avi Dichter, Director of the General Security Service (Shin Bet), had also arrived in Washington for consultations “at the request of the Administration, in order to explain Israel’s security qualms and demands.” Mr. Dichter met Ms. Rice and was to meet CIA officials later. Mr. Powell would further visit Israel on 20 June, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told Israel Radio the next day, to meet with Prime Minister Sharon and Mr. Shalom, and then go to Ramallah to meet with Palestinians. White House officials said Ms. Rice might also visit the region a week later. (AP, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post)

About 500 Palestinians wishing to return to the Gaza Strip, along with 25 trucks loaded with goods, were stranded after Israeli authorities closed the border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip for security reasons. Israeli authorities had closed the crossing for four days on 8 June after Palestinian militants killed four Israeli soldiers at the “Erez” crossing from Gaza into Israel. (AFP)

US envoy John Wolf held talks in the evening with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Israel Army Radio reported. Earlier in the day, Mr. Wolf had met with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom in Jerusalem and told him that before leaving for the Middle East, he had been directed by President Bush not to do anything that would harm Israel’s security. (AFP)

EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg called on “Hamas and other groups... to accept a complete ceasefire with the aim of allowing the immediate and faithful application of the Quartet’s Road Map.” “Ministers are now urgently examining the case for wider action against Hamas fund-raising,” said a statement issued after the meeting. (AFP)

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An Israeli soldier and a civilian were slightly injured after Palestinians fired two mortars at the “Neve Dekalim” settlement in the Gaza Strip, Y-net reported. (The Jerusalem Post)

US Envoy John Wolf met in Gaza City with Prime Minister Abbas and PA State Minister for Security Affairs Mohammad Dahlan. Mr. Dahlan was to meet with Maj.-Gen. Amos Gilad at the home of the US Ambassador to Israel, Mr. Dahlan aides said. (AP, Reuters)

Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein sent a letter to Prime Minister Sharon expressing his opposition to the possibility of releasing Marwan Barghouti, Fatah Secretary-General for the West Bank, as part of any agreement with the Palestinians, saying it would be “inconceivable” to release him before his trial was complete. While Israeli officials declined public comment on reports of Mr. Barghouti’s release, his wife Fadwa said Chairman Arafat had called her early in the day and had said her husband would be released by Israel within two days. (AP, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

The IDF prepared a list of 19 additional settlement outposts to be evacuated, five of them populated. Of the outposts on the army’s original list, all the unpopulated ones had already been dismantled, and the six populated ones were expected to be evacuated in the coming days. They were originally supposed to be dismantled the previous week but legal proceedings had forced a postponement. The High Court of Justice rejected a petition by residents of the “Mitzpeh Yitzhar” outpost on 16 June, ruling it had been built illegally. This had cleared the way for the army to dismantle it, while settlers went on high alert there expecting evacuation as early as in the afternoon of the same day. Petitions filed by residents of other outposts, including “Tel Chaim B” (“Beit El East”), were expected to be dealt with in the coming few days. Also, “Havat Gilad” founder Moshe Zar had recently announced that he would evacuate it himself within 12 days. (Arutz 7, Ha’aretz)

Israeli settlers met with Prime Minister Sharon for almost two hours in his office in what they described as a “difficult, charged, and worrying” meeting. According to Israel Radio,the atmosphere was so strained that Sharon’s advisers were ordered out of the room. “The issue of the encampments is only the tip of the iceberg of the process of implementing the Road Map,” said Benzi Lieberman, Chairman of the “Council of Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha Council),” after the meeting. “We are determined to struggle against this,” but through non-violent means, Mr. Lieberman said. (Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

IDF Chief of Intelligence Gen. Aharon Ze’evi-Farkash told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee that a ceasefire agreement was on the way to being finalized, although formalizing its details would take a few more days. (Arutz 7)

A seven-year-old Israeli girl, Noam Leibowitz, was killed and her sister and father wounded in a shooting attack. The incident took place inside Israel near a major highway junction less than a mile from Qalqilya. Two Palestinian militant groups claimed responsibility for the attack – the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and the PFLP–General Command. (Albawaba.com, AP, DPA, Ha'aretz, Reuters, The Guardian)

Russian Federation Middle East envoy Andrei Vdovin called for a rapid ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militant groups. He said: "The most important thing now is to reach a ceasefire to launch negotiations and implement the Road Map in its entirety." He also said that "Russia favours a comprehensive settlement which would cover Syria and Lebanon … and will make such efforts" within the Quartet. (AFP)

US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told Prime Minister Sharon's bureau chief Dov Weisglass that Israel "should think twice and be more sensitive" about assassination attempts on senior leaders of militant groups or major military operations in Palestinian areas while ceasefire negotiations were taking place. (Ha'aretz)

PA Prime Minister Abbas met in Gaza with leaders of several Palestinian opposition groups in Gaza, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP and DFLP. The meetings were also attended by Mr. Haider Abdel Shafi, former member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, who joined Mr. Abbas in urging a ceasefire. No results were reported but all sides agreed to continue talking. (DPA, Ha'aretz)

A senor Palestinian official flatly rejected Israel's terms for withdrawing troops from the northern Gaza Strip and turning the area over to Palestinian security forces, saying the offer was not a "serious proposal." "Israel gave a proposal that seems to be positive, but the reality of it is that it maintains the status quo, "the official said. One of the main problems was the size of the area that would revert to Palestinian control. The Israelis wanted it limited to the northern Gaza Strip, while the PA insisted on security responsibility for all of Gaza. Another key area of contention was Israel's targeting of Palestinian militants. Palestinian officials said that if they were given complete control of the Gaza Strip with guarantees that Israel would stop targeting militant leaders, they believed they could seal an agreement in which radical Palestinian groups would stop bus bombings and attacks against Israelis. Negotiations were being conducted between Major-General Amos Gilad, the Israeli military official responsible for overseeing the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and PA Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan. (The Washington Post)

Senior Hamas official Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi said there would be no Palestinian civil war even if Prime Minister Abbas failed to persuade Hamas to agree to a ceasefire. Senior officials in the Fatah movement confirmed that PA security services had no intention of making, as well as no ability to make, mass arrests of Hamas as they had done in 1996. Ismail Abu Shenab, another senior Hamas official, said that advocates of the ceasefire argued that it would enable the Palestinians to prove to the world that Israel under Mr. Sharon was not interested in peace, exposing the Road Map as a security arrangement, not a peace plan. Opponents argued that a ceasefire would enable Mr. Sharon to boast that Israel's army had defeated Hamas, and would lead to an economic upswing in Israel. (Ha'aretz)

Egyptian President Mubarak telephoned Palestinian leaders to brief them on Egypt's efforts to help broker a ceasefire with Israel. Mr. Mubarak exchanged views with PA Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Abbas on the results of the efforts of the Egyptian delegation. (AFP)

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Dozens of Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles, backed by a number of helicopters, invaded Qalqilya and imposed a strict curfew on civilians, following a shooting attack that killed an Israeli girl. (Albawaba.com, DPA)

Hamed Haboush, 45, died from wounds sustained in the assassination attempt on Mr. al-Rantissi a week earlier. Mr. Haboush was the fourth person to die in the attack. (AP, DPA, The Guardian)

Israeli forces arrested 14 Palestinians in Nablus, Bethlehem and Hebron. One of those arrested was Mohammed Badran, an Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank. (Ha'aretz)

Israeli troops backed by tanks raided Beit Lahya in the northern Gaza Strip, injuring three Palestinians. (DPA)

A Qassam rocket was fired by Hamas militants at the moshav "Nativ Ha'asara" near the northern border of the Gaza Strip. No one was wounded by the rocket, which hit a residential building. (Ha'aretz)

Israeli troops demolished four Palestinian-owned houses in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. The demolished houses in which 65 people had lived, were located in the Zo'rob neighbourhood, just south of Rafah. It was believed that the houses had tunnels in them, although none was found. Two other houses were demolished in Jenin and Nablus. (Albawaba.com, Ha'aretz, The Guardian)

Israel reached an understanding with the US whereby it would refrain from assassinating Palestinian militants in all areas which it would transfer to Palestinian control. The exception would be in the case of "ticking bombs" – an Israeli term used to refer to militants on their way to carry out an attack. One security source said: "We have undertaken to limit our track-and-kill operations to terrorists who are definitely 'ticking bombs.' When it comes to more borderline cases such as al-Rantissi, who is in a command position, we will hold fire as much as possible." Ha'aretz reported that Israel would restrict military operations so that PA Prime Minister Abbas could consolidated control. However, this grace period would last for no more than six weeks – after which the PA would be expected to take action against the militant groups. It was also agreed that should an attack occur while the truce was in force, Israel would not retaliate harshly if it was convinced that the Palestinians were making a genuine effort to prevent terror. (DPA, Ha'aretz, Reuters)

The IDF demolished the home of Qussay Salameh, a militant of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, in the village of Jaba, south of Jenin. Mr. Salameh had carried out a shooting attack on Israeli vehicles near the "Katzir" settlement in March 2003. (AFP, www.idf.il)

According to the Egyptian border police, the Israeli authorities had reopened the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt following a two-day closure. (AFP)

After two days of talks with leaders of Palestinian factions, PA Prime Minister Abbas offered to give Hamas and the Islamic Jihad political representation in a newly formed body called the "unified national leadership." The joint Palestinian leadership would be headed by PA President Arafat and operate under the umbrella of the PLO, according to the official Palestinian Media Centrr. (Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Antonio Cassese, a former Judge of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, expressed his opinion that the assassinations carried out by the IDF in the Occupied Palestinian Territory could be considered war crimes. The opinion was to be submitted to the Israeli High Court of Justice on 18 June as part of a hearing for a petition filed by the Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI) and Al-Qanon, a Palestinian human rights organization. In the next hearing to be held in three weeks, the court was to consider the petitioners' request for a temporary injunction that would bar any assassinations until the petition was decided. According to the petition, from the start of the intifada in October 2000 until April 2003, the IDF had killed more than 230 Palestinians, including 80 children, women and other innocent bystanders, in assassination attempts. In the opinion, Prof. Cassese established that the killing of civilians suspected of terror activity, when no direct belligerent operation in which they were involved was taking place, substantively infringed the most basic principle of international law, which states that armed forces must distinguish between combatants and civilians. (Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

19

A suicide bomber blew himself up in a grocery store in the moshav "Sde Trumot", killing himself and the store owner. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. The bomber was probably waiting to attack a nearby bus or bus stop in the village, but panicked and detonated his explosives when the store's owner became suspicious and approached him, police said. Sde Trumot is a small farming village in the Jordan River valley, about three miles south of the city of Beit Shean and about the same distance from the northern edge of the West Bank. (AP, Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

The IDF began dismantling the outpost of "Mitzpeh Yitzhar," adjacent to the "Yitzhar" settlement, south of Nablus. During the day the High Court had rejected a petition filed by a resident of the outpost to prevent the demolition of his home. The outpost consisted of four tents and two makeshift buildings of corrugated metal and concrete and held about 10 residents. About 200 people from nearby settlements had converged on the hilltop in the morning, blocking the road leading to the outpost with cars, burning tires and sharp objects to hinder the authorities. Settlers also set fire to Palestinian-owned wheat fields and olive groves in the area in an attempt to disrupt the operation. Between 300 and 400 soldiers, border police and civilian police got into running fistfights with the protesting settlers, bloodying some of them. After breaking through the roadblocks, the settlers ripped down the tents with the knives and their bare hands. More than 30 security personnel and settlers were injured in the clashes. (AFP, AP, Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Following talks between PA Prime Minister Abbas and leaders of Palestinian factions, Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, speaking to Albawaba,said his group had told the Prime Minister that Hamas would limit its attacks to Israeli military targets and settlers and refrain from attacking civilians, provided that Israel stopped its attacks on Palestinian civilians and released prisoners. "The most important thing is the ongoing dialogue and consultation between Palestinians amid the ongoing Israeli aggression," said Mr. Rantisi. "We have publicly said that there are concerns about the results of the Aqaba Summit, and we have indicated our 'red lines.' We want to see Israeli aggression halted and we also want to continue to work at upholding internal Palestinian unity," he added. (Albawaba.com)

On a visit to Bangladesh, US Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters: "The reports I have from my staff in the past few hours suggest that some progress has been made with respect to security arrangements, as well as continuing discussions with Hamas and other organizations with Prime Minister Abbas." He also confirmed that he planned to meet on 20 June with Israeli officials in Jerusalem and with Palestinian officials, probably in Jericho, in an attempt to restore momentum to the peace efforts. (AP, Ha'aretz, Reuters)

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer was sheduled to leave on 21 June for the Middle East in an attempt to promote the Road Map. Mr. Fischer, together with German President Johannes Rau, was to attend a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Amman on 21 June, to be attended also by the Israeli Foreign Minister and high-level Palestinian officials. Thereafter, Mr. Rau was to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territory, while Mr. Fischer would head to Beirut to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. A stop in Damascus was to include talks with President Bashir Assad and Foreign Minister Faruq Sharaa. On the last stop in Cairo, Mr. Fischer was to meet President Mubarak. (DPA)

Initial results of a poll being carried out by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research showed that relatively few Palestine refugees would seek to return to Israel if they received the right to do so as part of an overall Middle East peace agreement. The Centre was polling refugees in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as those in Jordan and Lebanon. The results were due out in July 2003. "Within the context of a negotiated outcome, the number of refugees who would want to go back would be small," Director of the Centre Khalil Shikaki said. "A small number of refugees would go to Israel based on [the results of] the survey. The idea that millions of refugees would be knocking at Israel's door is fantasy," he told Reuters on the sidelines of an Ottawa conference discussing various aspects of the refugee problem. For the past 10 years, Canada had been the chair of an international working group looking at ways of tackling the refugee issue. A senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs official closely involved with the group said there was little chance of a mass return of refugees to Israel. "Refugees as a rule do not make silly decisions about their future … I think there is a deep need on the Palestinian side to have some people go back, but I also believe the fears that millions and millions will choose to do so are heavily exaggerated," he told Reuters."People have been away for a very long time and the last three years of violence has changed all sorts of attitudes as to what is really feasible," he added. (Reuters)

A poll quoted by Ha'aretz showed that 56 per cent of Israelis supported the idea of a temporary ceasefire with Palestinians. (Ha'aretz)

PA Prime Minister Abbas held security talks with representatives of 13 Palestinian factions in an attempt to reach a ceasefire. Chairman Arafat issued a public statement urging the factions to complete the negotiations. Mr. Abbas met separately in Gaza City with representatives of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). Describing the meeting as "frank and positive," the DFLP said in a statement that its leaders had "reaffirmed the Palestinian peoples' legitimate right to resist the occupation and to pursue the intifada … A hudna (temporary ceasefire) should be the result of a comprehensive national accord and should put an end to all forms of aggression against the Palestinians, including assassinations, arrests, incursions and collective punishment." The PFLP said a ceasefire with Israel was impossible because there could not be a truce with the occupation. According to PA officials, the two groups said they were prepared to discuss Mr. Abbas's offer to include them in a Unified National Leadership that would function within the PLO. Mr. Abbas had made a similar offer to Hamas and the Islamic Jihad during separate meetings earlier. The offer envisaged full political participation in the next PA general elections and the expansion of the institutions of the PLO to include the two groups in exchange for their commitment to a comprehensive national agenda. (Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Security talks were held between Israelis and Palestinians, with the presence of US envoy John Wolf. The meeting was attended by Israeli Generals Doron Almog and Amos Gilad and PA Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan. The Israeli delegation demanded that the Palestinian security forces arrest activists from the militant organizations in Gaza within 24 hours of a ceasefire declaration. Israel also demanded tanks on the main Gaza road and that roadblocks erected along the road remain. The Palestinian delegation rejected those demands. The Palestinian side also did not agree to accept security responsibility for territory vacated by the IDF, since Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and others had not accepted the proposed ceasefire. It was the third high-level security meeting within a week but ended without results. (Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

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Zvi Goldstein, 47, was shot and killed and other passengers were wounded while driving near the "Ofra" settlement, north-east of Ramallah. His wife was slightly wounded, and his parents, both 73, visiting their son from the US, were seriously injured. Hamas claimed responsibility. (AP, Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

A booby-trapped bicycle left leaning against a concrete road barrier exploded at an Israeli military checkpoint near the "Gush Katif" settlement in the Gaza Strip without hurting anyone or causing damage. The bicycle was left by someone who had sneaked into the area among hundreds of Palestinian labourers who crossed the checkpoint to work in a cluster of Jewish settlements in Gaza, the army said. Shortly afterward, soldiers searching the area had found an explosive device weighing 20 kilograms near the site of the blast, which was later detonated safely. The army said the second explosive device had been intended to harm soldiers coming to the area after the bicycle blast. (AP, Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Prime Minister Sharon, Foreign Minister Shalom and Defence Minister Mofaz in Jerusalem. Mr. Powell told reporters at a joint news conference with Mr. Sharon: "With the end of the dictatorship in Iraq, and the emergence of new Palestinian leadership, we have an opportunity to successfully tackle the difficult task of ending terrorism, ending violence, bringing hope to the Israeli and Palestinian people, and making progress on a road map to a peaceful solution of this terrible conflict." Speaking on "ticking bombs", a term used by Israelis to refer to assailants about to carry out an attack, Mr. Powell said: "We can understand the need to intercept such a terrorist … and make sure that innocent lives are not lost. When one goes beyond that and expands those kinds of activities to individuals or to situations where it might not be a "ticking bomb," then, as we have discussed, the consequences of such action and how they play into our broader efforts for peace must be taken into consideration." Asked by a reporter if he would accept a ceasefire that did not totally eliminate Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, Mr. Sharon said: "The Palestinian Authority must fight terror organizations, it must disarm them, it must make sure that their infrastructure no longer exists … Without that, I believe we cannot reach peace or a political arrangement." Mr. Powell continued: "The enemy of peace has been Hamas, especially over the last two weeks. I don't think it is possible any longer to separate it out into various pieces. The funding is fungible, the leadership takes credit, and despite whatever charitable or other social good these organizations may perform, as long as they have as an organizational culture, a commitment to terror and violence and a desire to destroy the State of Israel, it is a problem we have to deal with in its entirety." (AP, DPA, Ha'aretz, Reuters,www.pmo.gov.il,www.state.gov)

After meeting with Israeli officials, Secretary of State Powell travelled to Jericho to meet with Prime Minister Abbas. At a joint news conference with Mr. Abbas, Mr. Powell urged the parties to bolster the Road Map by working out a deal for an Israeli pullback in Gaza and Bethlehem. "Our focus is on the Road Map process and the particular focus today is moving as rapidly as we can to dealing with the situation in Gaza and Bethlehem," he said. Mr. Abbas called on Israel to "prove its sincerity" regarding the Road Map. He urged Israel to do that by restoring the freedom of movement for Palestinians, ending "all provocative acts," freezing settlements, and ceasing the construction of a security wall along the West Bank border. Despite Israel's rejection of a ceasefire with Palestinian factions as a long-term solution, Mr. Abbas did not abandon his stance that he would achieve quiet through dialogue with the groups. He said he hoped to reach a ceasefire agreement with them "in the very near future." "The result will be comprehensive and full calm," he pledged. (AP, DPA, Ha'aretz, Reuters, www.pmo.gov.il)

Israeli soldiers shot to death 25-year-old Bilal Shorab at night in the southern Gaza Strip. Reports from the area said that troops stationed at the “Gush Katif” settlement block came under fire from Palestinian militants and killed the man when they returned fire in the direction of Khan Yunis. It was unclear whether the dead man had been involved in the shooting. The IDF said it was checking the report. (AFP, DPA)

Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking at a news conference with Prime Minister Abbas, called for Palestinian officials to take charge of security in the northern Gaza Strip and Bethlehem regardless of whether Islamic militants agreed to a ceasefire, saying that such a move would be “a very, very powerful and important first step" towards peace. “We should not in any way hold that activity hostage to what might or what might not be happening in the ceasefire, as they are called, discussions” among the Palestinian factions, Mr. Powell said. “Even if those discussions prove fruitful, we really have to get to a point ... where the only ones with guns and military force in any nation has to be the Government under legal control.” It was reported the next day that Israel and the Palestinians, at a security meeting in Jerusalem with Mr. Powell, had agreed on an Israeli pullout from areas in the Gaza Strip, to be followed by a complete withdrawal from the West Bank city of Bethlehem. (AFP, DPA)

In the Presidency Conclusions of the Thessaloniki summit, the European Council said the following concerning the current peace efforts in the Middle East: “There is a historic opportunity for peace in the Middle East. The European Council welcomes the decision of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to accept the Road Map developed by the Quartet, with the full participation of the European Union... The European Council is determined that this opportunity for peace should not be missed... The European Union unequivocally condemns terrorism and will contribute to efforts aimed at cutting off support, including arms and financing, to terrorist groups... The Union demands that Hamas and other groups declare immediately a ceasefire and halt all terrorist activity... The European Council calls on Israel to take action to restore trust and abstain from any punitive measures, including extrajudicial killings...” (AFP)

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Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yonathan Peled stated that his Ministry had been informed by US officials of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice’s "intention to visit the region next week, but there was no mention of a specific date.” A spokesman for PA Foreign Minister Nabil Sha’ath said: “US Secretary of State Colin Powell informed us of her visit but we have not received her schedule yet… Nabil Shaath welcomes her visit and appreciates her efforts to implement the peace Road Map.” (AFP)

A 54-year-old Palestinian, who had been seriously wounded on 13 June during an Israeli targeted assassination of a Hamas activist, died from his wounds. (AFP)

An Israeli undercover unit killed Abdullah Qawasme, considered the top Hamas official in the West Bank. He had been shot in Hebron while trying to flee, Israeli military sources said. Witnesses said a dozen Israeli troops disguised as Palestinian labourers waited in a van with windows blocked by boxes of diapers and two other vehicles bearing local licence plates, as worshippers left the mosque after Saturday evening prayers. According to local resident Bassam Hassan, Mr. Qawasme “was hit in the leg, ran to the other side of the street, and the Israelis finished him off.” (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

22

Prime Minister Sharon told his ministers that the killing of Mr. Qawasme was a “successful and very important” operation. “This is another proof that the Israelis are... continuing the assassinations,” PA Cabinet Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo told Reuters.“These operations are meant to obstruct any success of the dialogue to reach a truce.” “Zionist terrorist operations will not go unpunished. This clearly shows that the Zionist enemy will continue to shed Palestinian blood,” senior Hamas official Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi told Agence France-Presse, adding “Hamas will respond to this new crime.” However, Mr. Abu Shanab, a member of the Hamas leadership in Gaza, told ABC TV’s “This Week” programme that talks with Prime Minister Abbas would go forward, saying: “We promised Abu Mazen to give him an answer, maybe tomorrow. So maybe this will influence the Hamas decision. But up till this point, we didn’t give a final statement.” “It is negative and horrible and reminds people of everything they hate about the occupation: assassinations and violence,” PA Foreign Minister Nabil Sha’ath told reporters on the sidelines of an extraordinary annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Jordan. “At this point in time, when we are about to have a negotiation taking place ... this kind of act does not contribute to the atmospherics,” Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, told Reuters.“I regret we had an incident that could be an impediment to progress,” Secretary of State Powell told reporters, adding: “I regret it happened. I regret that we continue to find ourselves trapped in this action and counteraction, provocation and reaction to provocation.” “We reject these criticisms because the Quartet, and in particular the Europeans, should know that terrorism also kills innocent people on the Israeli side,” an anonymous Israeli official told Agence France-Presse. (AFP, DPA, Reuters, www.pmo.gov.il)

Members of the Quartet, meeting in Amman, hailed positive developments in the peace process and urged further efforts by both Israel and the Palestinian authorities to consolidate the gains achieved so far, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a statement issued on behalf of the group. Quartet members deplored and condemned the “brutal terror attacks” against Israeli citizens and called for an “immediate, comprehensive end to all violence.” At the same time, the statement voiced the Quartet’s “deep concern” over Israeli military actions that resulted in the killing of innocent Palestinian and other civilians, noting: “Such actions do not enhance security and undermine trust and prospects for cooperation.” Foreign Minister Shalom said after meeting Secretary-General Annan that his statements in the past had been more balanced. (IBA,UN News Service)

Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian woman near the “Morag” settlement in the Gaza Strip overnight, Israel Radio reported in the morning. Israeli military sources said troops had fired at a “suspicious silhouette” of a person seen carrying a backpack beside the settlement’s security fence. The body of the woman, a Bedouin, was later handed over by the Israeli authorities. Palestinian militants meanwhile fired a Qassam rocket at the Israeli town of Sderot. (AFP, DPA)

Four members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades were killed by an explosion near Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. Witnesses initially said they were killed by Israeli tank rounds, but other witnesses said the four were planting a bomb that exploded prematurely. Israeli military sources said there had been no army shooting in the area at the time and the militants were holding explosives that blew up. (AFP, Reuters)

Israeli troops staged an incursion into Khan Yunis, demolishing four buildings and sparking clashes which left one Israeli soldier wounded. The IDF said the houses were empty structures used by militants as cover for firing at Israeli soldiers stationed in the region. (AFP, DPA, www.idf.il)

Israel was considering easing its demand for full control of a key road in the Gaza Strip in favour of joint patrols with the Palestinians, a diplomatic source close to the talks said. The road was the key sticking point in talks to restore security control of Gaza and Bethlehem to the Palestinians. (Reuters)

Prime Minister Sharon, speaking at the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, said Israel could continue building in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. “They [the settlers] can build in the settlements, but they should not talk about it and go out dancing every time they get a building permit. Let them build without talking,” Mr. Sharon reportedly said. A senior Israeli political source told Reutersthat Mr. Sharon meant building “for current needs” within existing settlements, not new outposts. Prime Minister’s comments followed a proposal by National Infrastructures Minister Yosef Paritzky (Shinui) to relocate settlers from the West Bank to less populated parts of Israel, such as the Negev or the Galilee. Mr. Paritzky made his proposal in an interview on Israel Radio,en route to the World Economic Forum in Jordan. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

The Yesha Council had set up more than 10 new outposts in the West Bank, most of them uninhabited, since IDF Central Command Chief Moshe Kaplinsky handed settler leaders a list of 15 outposts to be dismantled just over two weeks earlier, Council head Benzi Lieberman told Ha’aretz over the weekend. Mr. Lieberman would not reveal the location of the new outposts, although he did name a few of the better-known ones, including the one near the “Neve Tzuf” settlement north of Ramallah, which had been taken down for the second time on 20 June. Peace Now’s Settlement Watch group said that seven new outposts had been erected since the meeting with Mr. Kaplinsky. (Ha’aretz)

The IDF had received new “open fire” regulations (rules of engagement) for its operations in the Palestinian territories to avoid hitting “innocent civilians,” Israeli Army Radio said. Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, IDF commander for Israel’s central region, which includes the West Bank, said the rules had been modified following several operations during which innocent Palestinian civilians were killed or injured, but did not elaborate on the new rules. Gen. Kaplinsky also said the army could reinforce its checks of Palestinian ambulances after it uncovered an explosive belt aboard an ambulance in Nablus, the radio added. He was also quoted as saying that an army officer manning the largest checkpoint on the West Bank had been dismissed after Palestinians had complained about his behaviour which “contradicted orders.” (AFP, The Jerusalem Post)

IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon admitted that Israel had debated assassinating Chairman Arafat. “The question of why we didn’t kill Arafat is worth a discussion,” the daily Ha’aretz quoted Mr. Yaalon as telling a conference of the Beersheba Chamber of Commerce, adding: “There were discussions about it in the past, but after weighing up the gains and benefits... we rejected the idea outright.” (AFP)

Ha’aretz reported that the IDF Southern Command military tribunal had recently indicted a female IDF soldier for allegedly coercing a Palestinian woman to drink a cleaning liquid at gunpoint. The incident had taken place at the Tufah junction between Khan Yunis and the “Gush Katif” settlement block in the Gaza Strip in February 2003, when the soldier pointed her assault rifle at the woman, shouted at her and demanded she drink from a bottle she was holding. Military sources said the soldier had been arrested over the incident, and that the Palestinian woman had received treatment in a Gaza hospital. They further added that the case was among 35 lodged against soldiers during the intifada. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Judge Advocate General Menachem Finkelstein, speaking at the third of a series of Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee meetings on the problem of protecting human rights during a war against terrorism, said that the IDF investigated every complaint of human rights violations against Palestinians coming from local and international human rights organizations, as well as serious incidents reported in the media. Mr. Finkelstein told the Committee that the army had investigated 1,200 complaints of criminal activities, including looting and abuse, that had taken place in non-operational circumstances, but emphasized that the army did not automatically investigate complaints related to operational activities because it was fighting a war against terrorists, a definition of the situation which, he added, had been upheld by the Supreme Court. In that situation, the local commander examined the allegations, and if his findings warranted a full-scale investigation, the military police would investigate. Of the 360 investigations of the soldiers’ conduct during operational activities since the start of the intifada, 134 had involved alleged property violations, 153 allegations of violence, and 55 alleged inappropriate shooting. Those investigations had yielded 44 indictments, Mr. Finkelstein said. However, human rights organizations disputed those assertions. “There are incidents of severe violence which the police and the soldiers ignore,” said Noa Stein, attorney for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), adding: “We have questions regarding the behaviour of soldiers and police.” Jessica Montell, the Director of B'Tselem, said that in the first weeks of June, her organization had received 24 complaints of beatings by Palestinians. Ms. Montell said she had forwarded complaints regarding hundreds of incidents of human rights violations by soldiers at the checkpoints, including the impounding of cars, seizure of ID cards and forcing Palestinians to wait in the sun for hours, but had received no response. (The Jerusalem Post)

Foreign Minister Shalom, attending the World Economic Forum in Jordan, met PA Finance Minister Salam Fayyad and discussed increasing economic cooperation between the PA and Israel. “We will try to form working groups and meet in the coming days in Jerusalem to form common projects,” Mr. Shalom said. (Ha’aretz)

US envoy John Wolf met late in the evening with PA Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammad Dahlan to discuss the details of an Israeli withdrawal from reoccupied areas in the Gaza Strip. According to a source, the two men had begun to hammer out the details of a pullout, discussing which positions and checkpoints the IDF could retain. (AFP)

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US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns was expected to visit Israel and the PA at the conclusion of the World Economic Forum in Jordan, to promote the implementation of the Road Map. “During the last two and a half weeks we have seen progress, we have seen intense discussions between the two sides,” Secretary of State Powell told a news conference. “Ambassador Wolf is in the region, Ambassador Burns is in the region and will remain in the region for several more days … We are making progress with the security agreements. The Palestinian Authority is hard at work trying to bring into place a cessation of violence on the part of those [Palestinian militant] organizations.” (AFP, Ha’aretz)

An Israeli driver was wounded by gunshots fired at his car near Jenin, a spokesman for Israel's medical rescue service said. (The Jerusalem Post)

Bassam Abu Sharif, an adviser to Chairman Arafat, said: “It seems Hamas will give a positive answer to the request for a truce very, very soon so that there can be a Cairo declaration of a ceasefire… The agreement is almost worked out, and I expect the withdrawal to start before the visit of US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice at the end of the month.” (The Jerusalem Post)

Maj.-Gen. Amos Gilad, an Israeli official leading security talks with the Palestinians, said a temporary truce, or hudna, with Islamic militants would lead to more violence and set back the Road Map, telling Israel Radio: “No hope should be put in this hudna. As far as Hamas is concerned, the hudnais a ceasefire for the purpose of reorganization, so that it can carry out even harsher acts of murder.” “As planned, I will meet Palestinian Minister of State Mohammad Dahlan soon to continue our security talks,” Gen. Gilad also said. “What we want is that the Palestinian Authority commits itself to take over responsibility for areas we are ready to evacuate and fight terrorism, in line with Mahmoud Abbas’s declaration at the Aqaba Summit,” he said. Mr. Dahlan was quoted by the radio later as responding that by not accepting a ceasefire, Israel would undermine efforts to rein in terror. He further said that the PA could only take control over security in the territories if Israel agreed to pull back its troops to September 2000 lines. The meeting between Gen. Gilad and Mr. Dahlan late in the afternoon at the Erez checkpoint was described as “positive,” although there were no immediate reports of progress. Israeli accounts of the meeting said the main disagreement between the sides remained the control of the so-called “central axis” road which ran the length of the Gaza Strip, with Palestinians demanding full control of the axis, including key junctions near Israeli settlements. (AFP, DPA, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Two Palestinian children were wounded, one of them seriously, by Israeli fire in the refugee camp of Nur el-Shams near Tulkarm. (AFP)

Another round of security talks between Israelis and Palestinians was held at the Erez crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel. The meeting was attended by Israeli Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, PA Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammad Dahlan and Gaza public security chief Abdelrazeq al-Majaida. Israel's Channel 10said the sides had been engaged in lively discussions for the first time on the handover of security control. "An agreement is from now in view," the channel said. Other Israeli sources also said they expected the Palestinians to assume control of vacated areas "within days." The sources, quoted on Israel Radio,said the only dispute remaining between the two sides was on control of the so-called "central axis" road, which ran the length of the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian side demanded full control of the axis, including key junctions near isolated Israeli settlements. The sources said a proposal to initiate joint Israeli-Palestinian patrols was under consideration. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

The PA Cabinet released a statement calling upon all Palestinian factions to agree to a halt of attacks on Israel. "The national factions must quickly answer the Palestinian Government after the end of long sessions of dialogue, in a manner to serve the interests of our people," the statement quoted by the official Wafanews agency said. "A unified position taken swiftly will make Israel's pretexts fall away and will permit the Palestinian Government to fulfill its obligations vis-à-vis its people and to the path of peace laid out by the international community." (AFP)

PA Foreign Minister Nabil Sha’ath called for a UN, European and Russian role in a US committee monitoring the implementation of the Road Map. Mr. Sha’ath had discussed the request with Secretary-General Kofi Annan during a 30-minute talk on the sidelines of a World Economic Forum meeting in Jordan. "We talked about the role of the United Nations in the monitoring committees of the Quartet," Mr. Sha'ath said. "We would like to see in that committee people assigned by the UN, as well as the European Union and Russia … We feel the United Nations can and should play a very important role in that, leading to the possibility of a bigger peacekeeping force on the ground in the Palestinian territories," he said. (AFP)

White House officials announced that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice would travel to the region for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. The talks were to be held on 28 and 29 June. (AFP)

The Israeli authorities at Ben Gurion Airport denied entry to the Medical Fact-Finding Mission Palestine, a group of Dutch and Belgian doctors led by Gretta Duisenberg, the wife of the President of the European Central Bank. Mrs. Duisenberg said in a statement: "The goal of our mission was to research whether there was evidence of deliberate obstruction of medical care. However, the Israeli Government has made it impossible for us to investigate this issue … We intend to pursue all legal mechanisms to address the violations of humanitarian law, in order to ensure that those responsible for the violations of international humanitarian law will be held accountable." (www.palestinercs.org)

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Israeli troops entered the old city of Nablus under cover of darkness and closed it off to search for suspected militants. Several militants were arrested. There were no reports of casualties. The army said it had been searching for locals wanted for carrying out suicide bombings and other attacks. In Hebron, Israeli forces arrested more than 130 Palestinians in a roundup targeting the city's Hamas network. Palestinian residents said troops had rounded up people with any Hamas connections, including relatives of its members, but none of the most wanted men were seized in the raid. Witnesses said 70 of those detained were relatives of Abdullah Qawasme, the Hebron leader of the Hamas military wing who had been shot dead by Israeli soldiers on 21 June. They also said some of those detained included teenagers, as well as women and many students. In all, some 160 Palestinians were arrested in Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem and Tulkarm. (AFP, AP, DPA, DW, Ha'aretz, Reuters)

Israeli troops shot and wounded a Palestinian trying to infiltrate the "Gush Katif" settlement block in the Gaza Strip. The man was carrying two knives, the army said. (AP, Ha'aretz)

In the Jenin area, Israeli troops demolished the house of Jalal Mahameed, who had been involved in a suicide bombing four months ago. (Ha'aretz)

Settlers established a new outpost overnight in the Nablus area, which they named "Ariel Hill" after the Israeli Prime Minister. The outpost was located next to the "Yitzhar" settlement, south of Nablus, and currently contained six yeshiva students. South of "Yitzhar," settlers also tried to rebuild the "Mitzpeh Yitzhar" outpost, which had been dismantled the previous week, but the attempt was prevented by Israeli troops. (Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

According to Israel Radio,representatives of PA Prime Minister Abbas had recently requested the EU that it declare Hamas a terror organization and freeze its European assets in order to pressure the group to accept a ceasefire with Israel. While the PA denied the report, EU sources confirmed that such an appeal had been made. (Ha'aretz, IBA)

A senior Israeli intelligence official told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee that Hamas had agreed in principle to a three-month ceasefire, both in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The official said, however, that an official decision had yet to be reached and that talks between Hamas and the PA were continuing. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher told reporters, after attending talks between President Mubarak and US Assistant Secretary of State William Burns in Cairo, that he expected Palestinian factions to declare a ceasefire within the next few days. It was not clear what terms had been agreed on between the PA Prime Minister and the Palestinian factions. (Ha'aretz)

Israeli Air Force Commander-in-Chief Maj.-Gen. Dan Halutz said on the Army Radio that innocent Palestinian civilians had been killed in 30 per cent of the targeted assassinations of Palestinians carried out by Israel. According to Mr. Halutz, in 100 per cent of the strikes carried out, missiles fired by attack helicopters had hit their target, but only in 85 per cent of the cases was the intended target actually killed. He also revealed that the military had been aware that the wife of a senior Hamas militant, Salah Shehadeh, had been near him when it had decided to kill him. In July 1992, a warplane dropped a 1-ton bomb on the house of Mr. Shehadeh, leader of the Hamas military wing, in Gaza City. Mr. Shehadeh was killed along with his wife, another Hamas activist and 16 other bystanders, among them nine children. Mr. Halutz said the attack on Mr. Shehadeh was the only case in which non-combatants had been knowingly placed in the line of fire. He said that civilians, whom he called " uninvolved subjects," were sometimes killed because of the crowded environment of Gaza, and "occasionally as a result of inaccuracy despite the accurate systems." Mr. Halutz also said that he was not aware of any decision to stop targeted killings and that Israel would act on "ticking-bomb" situations. (AP, Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

In remarks published in the London-based Al-Hayat daily, King Abdullah said that Jordan could help broker a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions. "Jordan can do that, but before this Israel must begin by taking serious steps such as stopping assassinations, mass punishments and destroying homes," he said. (Reuters)

After talks with President Mubarak, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer called on Palestinian militant factions for a "lasting ceasefire" to reach a breakthrough in the Road Map. He also announced a visit by Chancellor Schröder to Cairo at the beginning of October 2003. Mr. Fischer had held talks in Syria and Lebanon in the past two days to encourage support for the peace plan. (DPA)

Defence for Children International/Palestine Section (DCI/PS) reported that approximately 2,000 Palestinian children would have undergone the trauma of arrest by Israeli forces by the end of June 2003 since the start of the intifada in September 2000. According to the report, nearly 100 per cent of these minors had reported some sort of torture or mistreatment, whether physical, in the form of beatings or being placed in painful positions, or psychological, in the form of abuse, threats and intimidation. ( http://www.dci-pal.org/english)

Ismail Abu-Shanad, a senior Hamas official, told reporters in Gaza City that Hamas had a vision of a Palestinian State living side by side with Israel. He said, "Let's be frank, we cannot destroy Israel. The practical solution is for us to have a State alongside Israel. Hamas wants to make a strong public declaration of ceasefire if Israel will allow it to happen." An IDF intelligence officer, however, said Hamas "appears" to have decided "in principle" to declare a ceasefire but the group wanted to conceal the conditions that it accepted. (The Jerusalem Post)

IDF troops removed two tents erected five days earlier by settlers in the West Bank next to "Givat Har Sina," near Hebron. Settlers established two new outposts near "Benyamin" in the northern West Bank, next to "Revava West" and "Kokhav HaShakhar." (Ha'aretz)

25

Reacting to the arrests of Hamas members, the PLO issued a statement saying Israel's ongoing policy of assassinations and arrests … confirmed the plans of Sharon's Government to obstruct the implementation of the Road Map. (The Guardian)

Two Hamas members were killed in a clash with IDF troops in Beit Hanoun. In a statement, Hamas said that the two men, aged 20 and 23, had been killed in a raid on an IDF outpost in Beit Hanoun. It also said the attack was to avenge Israel's killing of senior Hamas member Abdullah Qawasmeh in Hebron over the weekend. The army said the two men had barricaded themselves inside a house and battled soldiers. (AP, BBC, DPA, DW, Reuters)

Two Palestinians, one of them a woman, were killed when Israeli helicopter missiles crashed into two cars near Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip. The attack wounded its target, Mohammed Sayem, a member of Hamas, whose leg had to be amputated. The two people killed were in another vehicle, a taxi. At least 14 others were wounded. (Reuters)

IDF bulldozers demolished a Palestinian-owned house in the town of Rafah in the West Bank. A total of 60 Palestinian homes had been demolished since the beginning of 2003. (DPA, Ha'aretz)

Israeli security forces in Kafar Qasem arrested two Palestinians, one of whom was carrying a bag containing an explosive device weighing 10 kilograms and packed with shrapnel. The two men, Nidal Subhi Abdelhak and Mohammed Ramadan, were apprehended following intelligence information stating that terrorists had infiltrated the "Sharon" region from the West Bank with the intention of carrying out an attack. There was no claim of responsibility from any militant group. (Albawaba.com, AP)

A Qassam rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip at the western Negev town of Sderot, Israel Radioreported. There were no injuries. (Ha'aretz)

As a result of a compromise, settlers from "Shavei Shomon West" agreed to allow the army to dismantle the outpost after settlers removed the caravans from the site. The army and the settlers reached an agreement according to which the infrastructure of the settlement would remain in place while the settlers continued their legal battle for the site. (Ha'aretz)

The United States pressed European leaders to cut off support for Hamas. Ari Fleischer, White House spokesman, said President Bush would appeal directly to Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission, and Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, whose country currently held the EU Presidency, to "dry up all Hamas funding and resources." France, however, had insisted that Hamas remain a necessary player in the peace process. (Reuters)

US Envoy John Wolf and PA Prime Minister Abbas met in Gaza City, and unlike previous meetings, were meeting alone. (Ha'aretz)

Despite the raids and killing, Palestinian leaders said that Hamas would agree to a ceasefire, which in turn would open the way to an Israel military withdrawal from most of the Gaza Strip. It was reported state that Hamas had agreed in principle to halt attacks on Israelis for three months but was seeking support from other militant groups before making a formal announcement. A formal truce announcement was expected by 27 June, possibly to be issued in Cairo. (AP, The Guardian)

Five mortar shells were fired at the "Gush Katif" settlement block in the Gaza Strip, but no injuries were reported. (Ha'aretz)

The IDF demolished the Hebron home of Nadar Raduan Abed Alhakim Abu Turkei, a Hamas member accused of recruiting suicide bombers and carrying out attacks against settlers. (www.idf.il)

At the end of a brief visit to Tunis, EU Middle East Envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos said: "The EU's position is very clear: strengthen and support the role of the new Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen, but do not ignore or break off dialogue with President Arafat … This position is unchanged and it will remain the same during Italy's EU Presidency." Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose country was to assume the EU Presidency on 1 July 2003, had refused to meet with Chairman Arafat during his Middle East visit earlier in the month. Mr. Moratinos categorically rejected rumours that Chairman Arafat was to be exiled to Tunisia on United States orders. "What exile? I believe Arafat left Tunisia to create a Palestinian State. This State has not yet been created," he said. (AFP)

The Council of Yesha Rabbis announced a change of its tactics in the struggle over outposts being evacuated, from advocating a stubborn fight for every outpost to agreeing to evacuation and then immediately establishing an alternative outpost. "We will willingly leave the outposts and let them be held by the IDF, and on the very same day, we will go to alternate sites that have been prepared in advance," the rabbis declared. They said they would require "no more than two tents and a flag and the minimum of supplies," and no more than 10 adults for guard duty. (Ha'aretz)

Ami Ayalon, former Shin Bet chief and commander of the Israeli Navy, and Sari Nusseibeh, President of Al-Quds University, launched a joint peace initiative, "The People's Voice." They intended to gather signatures of support for a document they had drafted in September 2002 as the basis for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Mr. Ayalon said he expected more than 100,000 Palestinians and some 200,000 Israelis to sign the document. The two said the aim of the campaign was not to display a lack of confidence in the current leadership, but, along with international intervention, rather to help leaders conduct negotiations in line with the parameters of the Road Map. (Ha'aretz, Reuters)

26

Two Qassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip landed next to the Negev town of Sderot. One of the rockets landed in a field but did not detonate. (Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

A 15-year-old Palestinian shot and killed an Israeli telephone company employee as he was driving in the northern Israeli-Arab village of Baka al-Garbiyeh, near the West Bank border. Another passenger, employed as a security guard at the phone company, chased and shot the gunman. The youth was reported to be in serious condition. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility. Hours later near Baka al-Garbiyeh, Israeli security forces caught three Palestinians carrying explosives belts and shot dead at least two of them. (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

PLC member Kadoura Fares announced that weeks of negotiations with Palestinian factions had "resulted in a ceasefire agreement for a period of three months." If there was quiet during this period, the truce could be extended, he said. Asked whether attacks would be halted in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Mr. Fares said: "The ceasefire is a ceasefire without exceptions, and everything will depend on the Israeli Government halting assassinations, house demolitions, and [easing] conditions on the Palestinian people. If the Israeli Government does this, I think it will be possible to build upon these understandings in a positive manner for the future." The truce deal had been negotiated over the past few weeks by Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah leader jailed by Israel, and heads of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in Damascus. With Israel's knowledge, Mr. Barghouti forwarded documents using envoys to Khaled Mashal of Hamas and Ramadan Shalah of the Islamic Jihad in Damascus. The document said Israel must halt military strikes but did not make it a condition for agreement. According to the Ramallah-based Al-Ayyam daily, the terms of the ceasefire demanded that Israel stop targeting militants and destroying homes, end all settlement activity, withdraw from the reoccupied autonomous areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and release all security prisoners. (AP, DPA, Ha'aretz)

After Palestinian officials had secured a commitment from Palestinian factions to a three-month ceasefire, PA President Arafat said a formal ceasefire announcement by the Palestinian groups was imminent. "Until now, it has not been officially decided, but we expect that in the coming few hours, there will be a declaration," he said. Information on the venue was not available. However, there were growing signs that a declaration might only be made in the coming few days. Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi said his group would "declare to everyone its final decision in the coming days." Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader in Gaza, said more time was needed. "There is a great deal of communication between all the parties which has intensified …, but at this point, I don't expect that there will be a declaration about our position … in the coming hours," he said. According to a Palestinian source, a senior Hamas envoy was en route from Damascus to Cairo to deliver the ceasefire document. (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen met with PA President Arafat in Ramallah. The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs had earlier said in a statement: "It has not been possible on this occasion to arrange meetings with Israeli Government representatives. This is due to the Israeli Government's policy of refusing to meet foreign representatives who call on President Arafat. Minister Cowen met the Israeli Foreign Minister, Mr. Silvan Shalom, in Crete last month, and hopes to be in a position to travel to Israel for separate meetings with the Israeli representatives later in the year." Mr. Cowen's visit was part of his fact-finding tour to the Middle East ahead of his country's assumption of the EU Presidency on 1 January 2004. (AFP, Reuters)

In London, en route to the region for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice urged both Arab and EU nations to help the peace process by breaking off with Hamas's political wing. "We are pressing the Arab States to cut off support for Hamas, whatever Hamas wants to say it's being used for," she said. "The EU had listed the armed wing, but social organizations of Hamas have also got to be listed … The notion that on the one hand Hamas is peaceful and on the other hand is trying to blow up the peace process is just illogical and, we're saying, will not work." Ms. Rice added that other radical groups such as the Islamic Jihad and "all of the other rejectionists" should also be targeted. (Reuters)

The Israeli High Court of Justice issued a temporary injunction forbidding police from continuing the evacuation of the "unauthorized" outpost of "Adei Ad North," between Ramallah and Nablus. A stone structure to house a youth educational institution had been the only structure in the outpost for seven years since its establishment, but seven new caravans had been added some two weeks earlier, four of them inhabited. Meanwhile, security forces began evacuating the outposts of "Talmon North," near Ramallah, and "Hill 26," near "Kiryat Arba." "Hill 26" was being evacuated for the fourth time in the past 24 hours. (Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

The Military Advocate General, Maj.-Gen. Menahem Finkelstein, decided to close the file on the death of Rachel Corrie, an American activist who had been crushed and killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in Rafah. Ms. Corrie, 23, who belonged to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), was taking part in protest efforts to prevent the army from demolishing houses when she was killed in March 2003. Mr. Finkelstein reached his decision after reviewing the findings of the investigation conducted by the Military Police, which had determined that the driver of the bulldozer had not seen Ms. Corrie and had not intentionally run over her. The decision brought to an end the military's probe into the incident, and no disciplinary measures were to be taken against any of those involved in the incident. (Ha'aretz)

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom announced the formation of an Israeli committee to monitor Palestinian and Arab incitement against Israelis. (IBA)

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Three Palestinian militants and one bystander were killed by Israeli troops in a raid in the Gaza Strip. One Israeli soldier was also killed and at least 15 Palestinians were wounded in the operation. More than 10 tanks backed by two helicopters moved more than a kilometre into the Gaza district of al-Moraka, near the "Netzarim" settlement, and surrounded the house of Hamas member Adnan al-Ghoul, an alleged bomb maker. Troops demolished the house when the exchanges of gunfire ceased. Mohammed Abu al-Taya, aged 20, a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, was shot during the clashes. During the demolition of the house, al-Ghoul's son, Mohammed, 24, was crushed to death and the body of his brother, Imran, was found trapped under the rubble of the house. Adnan al-Ghoul was not at the house. (AFP, AP, DPA)

IDF troops in Jenin arrested Wael Ajoul, a senior member of Hamas. Troops also arrested two Palestinians in the Nablus area, and six in the Hebron area.. (Ha'aretz)

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin said that Hamas had decided to suspend attacks on Israelis, stating, "Hamas has studied all the developments and reached a decision to call a truce, or a suspension of fighting activities." He added, "We are still in contact with the rest of the factions in order to reach a joint formula to be signed by everybody." A senior Israeli Government source responded to Hamas' truce agreement by saying, "It's not worth the paper it's written on," but indicated that Israel could adopt a wait-and-see strategy in targeting Palestinian militants if a truce was declared. (Reuters, The Washington Post)

The European Commission brushed off pressure from US President Bush for the EU to put Hamas on its list of outlawed terrorist organizations. Reijo Kemppinen, chief spokesman of the Executive Commission, said "You can't say that the whole of Hamas is a terrorist organization and certainly that is not our position. Mr. Kemppinen said the EU wanted Hamas to denounce "terrorist activities" and reach agreement with the PA on a ceasefire and an end to all attacks against Israel. (Reuters)

The PA as well as Palestinian factions were expected to announce a three-month ceasefire including in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip within the next few days, according to Jerusalem Fatah leader Ahmed Ghanem. "In principle there is an agreement, but the wording needs to be finalized and Abu Mazen [PA Prime Minister Abbas] must complete his role for the official acceptance of the hudna (ceasefire)." He added, "It is clear that there are many points of agreement between the Palestinian factions, but their main condition is that the Israeli aggression must be halted, all the prisoners released and there must be an Israeli withdrawal from all the occupied territories." A Palestinian source said the hudna would be signed by the Syrian-based Khalidi Mashal on behalf of Hamas, the Syrian-based Ramadan Salah on behalf of the Islamic Jihad, and Marwan Barghouti on behalf of Fatah. The source also said that PA President Arafat would likely be the one to approve it on behalf of the PA. (The Jerusalem Post)

Israel and the PA had reached an agreement on the issues of Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and Bethlehem. A senior Israeli political official called the disengagement deal, mediated by US envoy John Wolf, an agreement in principle and said details of a troop pullback in Bethlehem had not been finalized. He said that in accordance with the Road Map, the Israeli army on 30 June would start leaving areas of the Gaza Strip that Israel had occupied during the 33-month-old Palestinian "revolt." Palestinian security forces would assume security control and ensure that militants did not fire mortar bombs and Qassam rockets at Jewish settlements and towns in Israel. He added that Palestinian security forces would be given a chance to act on Israeli tips on any pending attacks by militants before Israel launched "track-to-kill" operations. Palestinians would be able to move on the Gaza Strip's main roads except for one near the "Kfar Darom" settlement, where a bypass route would be paved. Israel had also agreed to lift an edict banning Palestinians under the age of 35 from leaving the Gaza Strip. Buffer zones were to be established between the remaining Israeli troops guarding settlements and Palestinian forces. (Reuters)

The US applauded the agreement between Israel and the PA on an Israeli troop pullback in Gaza. "The agreement represents a first significant joint step towards implementation of commitments made by each party at the Aqaba Summit," according to White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. (Reuters)

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The IDF arrested five Fatah and Islamic Jihad members in Beit Iktaba, north-west of Tulkarm. One of them had intended to carry out a suicide bombing, the IDF said. In addition, troops operating in Tulkarm destroyed a nail-filled explosive belt intended to be used by a Hamas member for a suicide bombing. (www.idf.il)

Five mortar rockets were fired at the "Gush Katif" settlement in the Gaza Strip on 28 June, but no injuries were reported. (www.idf.il)

US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice met with Prime Minister Abbas and other Palestinian officials in Jericho. The Palestinian side called for a freeze on Israeli settlements and the release of Palestinian prisoners, including Marwan Barghouti. Mr. Abbas reportedly spent a long time complaining that the security fence was usurping Palestinian land and creating the border of a future Palestinian State. Ms. Rice invited Mr. Abbas to visit Washington "in the coming weeks." (AFP, DPA, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

The Italian Foreign Ministry announced the release of three aid packages worth a total of €77 million (US$88 million) for Palestinians. €27 million would be used to fund the development of the private business sector and the supply of goods and services to small and medium-sized Palestinian enterprises. A plan to create and develop industrial districts in the Gaza Strip, modelled on Italian business parks, would receive a 25 million grant. The remaining 25 million would go towards building democratic institutions and local administrations, with training programmes operated both locally and in Italy for senior administrators. The aid fell within the framework of a broad plan for Palestinian socio-economic reconstruction, launched by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. "These cooperation initiatives, dubbed 'the wings of the dove,' are the result of a consultation between Italian regional and provincial governments to build a common work programme in favour of the Palestinians," the statement said. (AFP)

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Two Palestinians were wounded when clashes broke out between Palestinian militants and Israeli troops in Qalqilya. One of the wounded, Mohammad Oweiss, 22, was in critical condition after being shot in the chest, Palestinian security sources said. (AFP)

US National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice held talks with Prime Minister Sharon and other Cabinet ministers. During the meeting, Ms. Rice expressed US concern that the security fence was creating facts on the ground that would prejudge a final settlement, and indicated that the US would like to see the construction stopped as a confidence-building measure. However, Prime Minister Sharon said that Israel was unwilling to compromise on the security fence, which was necessary for the security of Israeli citizens. Finance Minister Netanyahu said during the meeting that because of the warnings of imminent attacks, it was important for Israel to use defensive means, such as the fence, in addition to offensive measures. (AFP, AP, Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Hamas and Islamic Jihad released a statement declaring a three-month truce. Fatah also joined the truce, saying it would halt all military operations for six months in accordance with an Egyptian initiative. Israel Radio reported that the DFLP had also accepted a three-month truce. The PFLP said it would not join the truce, but would not violate it either. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades had said in a leaflet a day earlier that they rejected any truce with Israel. Israel refused to make blanket promises, but pledged to halt targeted attacks of wanted Palestinians in areas currently controlled by Palestinian police. Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee: "The ceasefire agreement was not concluded with Israel … Since we are not a party to it, its terms do not matter to us." (AP, DPA, Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Referring to the truce declaration by Palestinian factions, White House spokesperson Ashley Snee said: "Anything that reduces violence is a step in the right direction … Under the Road Map, parties have an obligation to dismantle terrorist infrastructure. There is still more work to be done." (AP, Ha'aretz)

Israel pulled troops out of the northern Gaza Strip city of Beit Hanoun. Over the past months, Israeli troops had destroyed the city's main roads, effectively cutting off the town from the rest of Gaza. Troops had also destroyed dozens of buildings and uprooted thousands of orange trees. Following the withdrawal from Beit Hanoun, Israeli tanks withdrew and bulldozers removed sand and cement barriers from the Gaza Strip's main "Tancher" highway stretch, which had been closed to all but Israeli troops and settlers since September 2000. PA police forces took over security responsibility for the highway from the Erez crossing in the north to Khan Yunis in the south, except for one army checkpoint outside the isolated settlement of "Kfar Darom." The army also allowed Palestinian police officers to return to the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. (AFP, AP, Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

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A 46-year-old Bulgarian construction worker was struck in the head and killed near Jenin. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility. Hours later, gunshots were fired at foreign workers constructing a security fence near Qalqilya, but there were no reports of injuries. (AFP, AP, Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Israeli and Palestinian officials finalized details for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Bethlehem. "We met with Israeli security officials in Jerusalem today and agreed that Israeli troops will pull out from Bethlehem on Wednesday [2 July]," said Mohammed Dahlan, PA Minister of State for Security Affairs. A senior Israeli security source said the deal on Bethlehem was not final, but Mr. Dahlan said, "Another security meeting will be held Tuesday [1 July] to discuss mechanisms of the pullout." A senior Palestinian security official told Agence France Pressethat the Israeli army would also withdraw from the cities surrounding Bethlehem: Beit Sahour, Beit Jala and Al-Khader. (AFP, DPA, Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Israel Radio reported that Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Abbas would meet in Jerusalem on 1 July to discuss the implementation of the Road Map. (AP, Ha'aretz, Reuters)

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a statement welcomed the ceasefire announcement by Palestinian groups .(www.un.org/news)

In an interview with an NBC programme, US Secretary of State Colin Powell called the truce announcement by Palestinian groups "a positive development," but said it was not enough to ensure lasting peace. "We ultimately have to reach a point where the capability for terrorism that exists in these organizations is removed. You can't have people with guns, armed militias, inside a State. So if we are going to have a Palestinian State, all the weapons, all the force within that State, has to be under the Government and these terrorist organizations have to be dismantled," he said. Asked about the possibility of sending US forces to the region as peacekeepers, Mr. Powell said, "I don't anticipate … United States armed forces actually going in as some sort of peacekeeping force … But we can help the two sides. We can be facilitators, monitors, evaluators of what's going on, but I don't see a role for United States armed forces in the region." (www.state.gov)

Six political factions under the umbrella of the PLO said in a statement that they would heed the call by Fatah "for a halt to all military actions for a period of six months." Those factions were the Palestinian Liberation Front, the Palestinian Arab Liberation Front, the Arab Liberation Front, the Palestinian People's Party, the Popular Struggle Front and the Democratic Union. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said in a statement that it would respect the truce. (AFP)

Israel Radio reported that Prime Minister Sharon had ordered the Shin Bet secret service to conduct a "comprehensive executive review" of all Palestinians currently jailed by Israel, in order to determine which of them might be freed. The Shin Bet was to submit its findings to Mr. Sharon in several days. The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem estimated that there were currently more than 5,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, nearly 1,200 of them in administrative detention. They were bring held without trial or charge, sometimes without even being questioned or told why they were being held, for extendable periods of six months. (AFP, DPA, Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

The Associated Press reported that the Shin Bet security agency had held Palestinian prisoners incommunicado for weeks at a time at a secret detention centre. The State's Attorney confirmed the existence of the centre, known as Facility 1391, in a 9 June response to a Supreme Court petition filed by the HaMoked human rights group over missing detainees. According to the response, Shin Bet only used the centre for a brief period when Israel's incursion into the West Bank in April 2002 resulted in hundreds of Palestinian arrests and a "shortage of detention places." Since then, all Palestinian prisoners had been moved, and the centre was used for special circumstances, for detainees who were not residents of the territories, according to the response. Palestinians who had been detained at the centre said that they had been blindfolded and kept in black, windowless cells. (AP)

A poll conducted by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) showed that 73 per cent of Palestinians supported a ceasefire with Israel. A smaller majority of 52 per cent believed that since the Palestinian Authority had accepted the Road Map, the armed intifada should end, as should all military activities by both sides. Half of the respondents said the PA should take punitive action against Palestinian violators of the ceasefire if Israel abided by it as well. However, only 18 per cent believed armed confrontations would end and Palestinians and Israelis would resume the peace process. The popularity of PA President Arafat remained the same at 35 per cent, and that of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin rose from 15 per cent in April 2003 to 18 per cent. At the same time, the popularity of the Fatah movement remained at 26 per cent while that of Hamas had also increased from 17 per cent in April to 22 per cent. On the other hand, support for Prime Minister Abbas had declined from 61 per cent in April to 52 per cent. The PSR said most of the decline in support for Abbas was in the Gaza Strip, where the majority of the population were refugees and the unemployment rate was above 60 per cent. The poll, conducted between 19 and 22 June, interviewed a representative sample of 1,318 adults and had a 3 per cent margin of error. (DPA)

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command rejected any ceasefire with Israel, saying in a statement in Beirut: “We are not bound by the unilateral truce and it does not influence us at all. The fighters and the heroes in Palestine will continue the armed struggle until the last inch of our land is liberated.” (AFP)

Israeli and Palestinian municipal authorities signed a cooperation agreement concerning public utilities, said the Union of Greek Municipalities (KEDKE), the host of a two-day meeting in Thessaloniki. The framework for cooperation, established during the meeting, focused on electricity production, irrigation, sewage and waste management. Ali Eldar, who led the delegation of Israeli mayors, was quoted in a KEDKE statement as having said: “As mayors, we care about citizens’ daily lives. I call upon our Palestinian friends to lay down their arms and to talk to us. I hope the three-month truce lasts forever.” His Palestinian counterpart Ghassan Shaakah said: “We want the violence on both sides to end. We should reach a just peace and a lifting of the occupation.” The Israeli and Palestinian ambassadors in Greece were present for the signing of the agreement. A KEDKE spokesman said that Greece, which had just ended its rotating EU Presidency, would seek to mediate between the two parties and advise them on the EU’s municipal assistance programmes. (AFP)

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and US Secretary of State Colin Powell had had a telephone conversation and had agreed that their countries would continue to cooperate on the implementation of the Road Map, including joint monitoring of its results. (AFP, www.mid.ru)

Israeli police had been allowing non-Muslims to enter the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, Israeli media reported. Visits by Israelis and non-Jews from abroad were conducted in small groups escorted by police, with Prime Minister Sharon’s permission but without the approval of the Muslim Religious Trust (Waqf), charged with the day-to-day maintenance of the site. Israeli Army Radio quoted Waqf Director Adnan Husseini as saying that the move was a violation of the understanding whereby the compound would remain open only to Muslims until calm was restored in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The compound had been closed to non-Muslim visitors after the start of the intifada in September 2000, which erupted after Ariel Sharon, at the time the leader of the opposition, made a controversial visit to the site. Prime Minister Abbas criticized the decision the next day, saying he would raise the issue in talks with Prime Minister Sharon. “This is a provocative position that will take us back to the absolutely unjustified provocations,” Mr. Abbas said. (DPA, Reuters)


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