Peres, who leads the Israeli negotiating team, started the talks on Sunday in an effort to firm up an agreement to reopen under European supervision the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. The deal was approved last week by Israel's security cabinet.

An official at the European Commission office in Tel Aviv said that the opening meeting had been largely symbolic, but that a working meeting would take place on Sunday evening.

"We hope that on Tuesday there will be a three-way meeting between Israel, the Palestinians and the European Union" she said.

Meeting with Palestinians

Meanwhile, Marc Otte, the EU's Middle East envoy, was due to meet on Sunday with senior Palestinian officials over the Rafah border agreement, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erikat told AFP.

Marc Otte will discuss the
international observers at Rafah

Erikat said he was to hold talks with Otte after which the EU envoy would meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qureia and Planning Minister Ghassan Khatib to discuss the international observers at the Rafah border, he said.

"The Palestinian Authority hopes to resolve this problem as soon as possible," he added.

The fate of the terminal has been in limbo since before Israeli ground troops withdrew from the Gaza Strip in mid-September.

Israel is locked in negotiations with the European Union over what kind of presence the 25-nation bloc will adopt at Rafah.

Bomb victim

A 66-year-old Israeli woman has died of wounds from an Islamic Jihad bombing last month, raising the toll to six and making it the deadliest such attack during a nine-month-old truce, hospital officials said on Sunday.

The toll from the Hadera market
bombing rose to six (file photo)

Islamic Jihad carried out the 26 October attack at a market in Hadera, prompting Israeli air strikes and army raids in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Fifteen Palestinians, mostly gunmen, and an Israeli soldier have been killed since then.

Islamic Jihad said the Hadera bombing was a response to the killing of a top West Bank commander.

Most of the casualties from the Hadera bombing were stall-holders or shoppers. More than 30 people were wounded.