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Could this be a breakthrough?

post #1 of 4
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RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Sunday approved a plan that could end the standoff at his compound in Ramallah, Palestinian officials said, hours after the Israeli Cabinet gave its OK to the proposal.

The plan, proposed Saturday by U.S. President Bush in a telephone call to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, involves U.S. and British monitors supervising the custody of six Palestinians who have been holed up inside Arafat's compound for more than a month.

In exchange, Israel would agree to allow Arafat to travel freely in the West Bank and Gaza and would withdraw its troops from Ramallah. A spokesman for the British Foreign Office said Sunday that Britain would be willing to help implement the proposal. (Full Story)

The Israelis want five of the men to stand trial in Israel for last year's killing of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi. Israel said the sixth man is responsible for a major arms shipment destined for the Palestinian Authority that was seized in the Red Sea in January.

Last week, a makeshift court in Arafat's compound convicted and sentenced four men for their parts in Ze'evi's killing. The four received sentences ranging from one to 18 years in prison. Israel rejected the Palestinian action and demanded the right to try the suspects in an Israeli court.

The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reports the fifth man wanted by Israel in connection with Ze'evi's killing is Ahmad Sa'adat, a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

The PFLP is a Palestinian militant group that has committed numerous international terrorist attacks and has conducted attacks against Israeli or moderate Arab targets, according to the U.S. State Department. It claimed responsibility for Ze'evi's murder, which triggered a fresh wave of violence in the region.

The Israeli Cabinet approved the proposal in a 17-8 vote. Sharon argued passionately to the Cabinet for the plan, explaining that Bush had made a personal plea for its acceptance.

U.N. fact-finding team to Jenin camp delayed
While approving the Arafat plan, the Israeli Cabinet said conditions are "not yet right" for a U.N. fact-finding mission to the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank.

Sharon asked the Cabinet for another delay in the arrival of the U.N. team while Israel and the United Nations settle on the terms and conditions of the investigation. The mission, already on hold for two days, had been scheduled to arrive in the region Sunday from Geneva, Switzerland.

The main sticking point, sources close to the meeting said, is whether Israelis or the U.N. team should be entitled to summon witnesses.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat slammed the Israeli action.

"We urge the secretary general of the United Nations to send the fact-finding team immediately," Erakat said. "Let Sharon deny them entry into the country if he chooses. Enough is enough. Enough Israeli delaying tactics."

Palestinian officials said hundreds died in what they are calling a massacre at Jenin during Israel's military offensive in the West Bank. Israel vehemently denies the allegation, saying about 50 Palestinians, mostly fighters, were killed. Israel lost 23 soldiers in the fighting. The Palestinian accusations have not been independently corroborated.

The fact-finding team, which has no timetable for its work, will report to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who will present its findings to the Security Council.

Search on for killers of Israeli settlers

Moshe Becker, right, lost his son, Arik, in an attack by Palestinian gunmen on the West Bank settlement of Adora.
With the Cabinet meeting Sunday, Israeli troops conducted a manhunt for Palestinian gunmen who infiltrated a Jewish settlement and killed at least four Israeli settlers, including a 5-year-old girl.

The shooting happened about 9:45 a.m. Saturday (2:45 a.m. EDT) when the gunmen, dressed in Israeli army uniforms, entered the Jewish settlement of Adora near the West Bank town of Hebron through a fence, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The gunmen killed the girl and wounded her two brothers in one house before entering a second house, killing a woman and wounding her husband inside, military officials said. (Full story)

The Jerusalem Post identified the victims as Arik Becker, 22; Danielle Shefi, 5; Katrina Greenberg, 43; and Ya'akov Katz, 51. At least seven others were wounded in the shooting, one seriously, according to the IDF.

The gunmen went house to house in the settlement for some time. Witnesses said the attack may have lasted more than 40 minutes; army officials told The Associated Press the attack lasted about 15 minutes.

The IDF killed one gunman, according to military sources. Troops backed by helicopters were searching house to house for the others in a nearby village, the AP reported.

More talks on Bethlehem standoff
In Bethlehem, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators Sunday held their longest session yet as the two sides searched for an end to a nearly monthlong standoff at the Church of the Nativity. It was their fifth session since Tuesday.

Saleh Tamari, the chief Palestinian negotiator in Bethlehem, described the talks as frustrating but said the atmosphere at the negotiating table was good. Tamari said the Palestinians wanted more food delivered to the church.

Israeli authorities lifted a curfew around the church Saturday for the first time since the standoff began between Israeli forces and Palestinians hiding in the holy site.

The Israelis have lifted curfews in Bethlehem periodically during the impasse to allow residents to buy needed supplies. But Saturday's action was the first time shop owners could enter the area surrounding Manger Square and view the damage to their businesses and the streets.

They found windows and walls broken and cracked by Israeli tanks, especially around the market area, and at least a dozen burnt-out cars.

Earlier Saturday, three gunshots were heard near the church, and about 30 minutes later a person was carried out of the church compound on a stretcher. The person's condition was unclear, but the Israeli military said the person was seen attempting to plant a bomb in a doorway and was shot by Israeli forces.

At Arafat's besieged Ramallah headquarters, Tamari discussed the status of recent talks with Israeli negotiators to end the church standoff, sources close to the talks said.

The sources also said a framework for an agreement to end the standoff was tentatively in place and that negotiators hoped to get Arafat's approval for an announcement as early as Sunday.

About 200 Palestinians remain inside the church, including many civilians, but Israel said 30 Palestinians wanted by Israel are inside as well. Israel contends civilians inside are being held hostage, while Palestinians said they fled to the church to escape the fighting outside.

post #2 of 4
Not to be a pessimist, but I truly don't forsee any sort of peace there. This has been going on for so long, that I just can't imagine one "agreement" will fix it.

But of course, I hope that they do reach some sort of peace deal!!
post #3 of 4
I hope and pray that they do reach some sort of peaceful agreement!! That would be wonderful!!!!!
post #4 of 4
It is in my optimistic nature to hope that this is the breakthrough we have been praying for, but I have been disappointed too many times to count on it.

Is it terrible to pray that we develop an affordable fuel cell vehicle to reduce our reliance on foreign oil? (when I say "our" I mean American, but I am sure this conversation exists outside of the US as well, so I am not trying to be exclusionary) Think of the savings to the environment if we drove vehicles that produced water vapor as exhaust. It is a true paradigm-shift, isn't it?

My only (truly selfish) hope is that my husband is not sent to the Middle East on a peace-keeping mission. I just do not see how we can help over there. There are eons of history and resentment that a military intervention will not even begin to touch.
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