Sources at the delegation told Aljazeera on Saturday that the mission of the group remains the the continuation of truce between Palestinian resistance groups and Israel.

The group is also seeking to prevent Palestinian factional fighting in the wake of differences between Fatah and Hamas over the results of the recent municipal elections.

The Egyptian delegation is preparing to hold a series of meetings with top officials in the Palestinian Authority, the Legislative Council and family members on the issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Fate of prisoners

Israeli public radio reported that the Sharon cabinet was set to decide on the release of another 400 Palestinian prisoners, as Palestinians staged demonstrations in Hebron to  call for their release earlier in the day. 

The promised second batch of
400 releases did not materialise

"The prisoners are our honour," "Free the prisoners," and "400 freed prisoners are not enough" read banners carried by dozens of mostly female demonstrators who gathered on Saturday in the centre of the flashpoint West Bank city.

Five hundred prisoners were released shortly after a February peace summit between Abbas and Sharon in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, but the promised second batch of 400 releases never materialised.

Radio report

Israeli radio reported on Saturday that none of the prisoners likely to be freed were killers and that most had served two-thirds of their sentences.

General Amos Gilad, adviser to Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz, vowed that those accused of orchestrating the 2001 assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi would not be released.

"Clearly, all Palestinian demands in this regard cannot be considered. They [who orchestrated the assassination] must remain in prison," Gilad said.

"Clearly, all Palestinian demands in this regard cannot be considered. They [who orchestrated the assassination] must remain in prison"

Amos Gilad,
Adviser to Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz

Zeevi was killed in October 2001 at a hotel in east Jerusalem by an agent of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), allegedly in retaliation for the death of PFLP chief Abu Ali Mustapha, who was killed by the Israeli army in Ram Allah two months earlier.

In a separate development, the Palestinian Authority said on Saturday it is recruiting thousands more police to help secure the Gaza Strip when Israel withdraws from the occupied territory in August.

"We've begun to recruit the first contingent of 5000 men in preparation for Israeli withdrawal," an Interior Ministry spokesman told AFP. "About 2000 will be integrated in our police force and the rest will work on national security."

Failed talks

The announcement came days after Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz and Palestinian Interior Minister Nassr Yousef failed to reach a security agreement during talks in Tel Aviv to discuss the Gaza pullout.

Israel is to evacuate over 8000
Jewish settlers living in Gaza

The Israeli government plans to evacuate more than 8000 Jewish settlers living in Gaza and four northern West Bank settlements from mid-August, withdrawing settlers and soldiers from the territory.

Earlier on Saturday, a Palestinian fighter was killed and two others were wounded when explosives they were handling blew up prematurely in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian medical and security sources said.
   
A Palestinian security source said a fighter from Hamas was killed in what he described as a "work accident", when an explosive device blew up prematurely outdoors in the northern Gaza Strip.
   
The Islamic resistance group Hamas identified the man who died as a 21-year-old field commander and said he was killed doing his "jihadic duty".
   
It said he had been manning a Hamas position near the Jewish Elei Sinai settlement but gave no further details.