Egypt continues peace efforts

Egyptian has stepped up efforts to secure an agreement by Palestinian resistance factions to halt anti-occupation attacks even as Israel shot dead a Palestinian teenager.

Hamas leader Abd al-Aziz al-Rantesy (L) greets Egyptian mediator Mustafa al-Buhairi
Hamas leader Abd al-Aziz al-Rantesy (L) greets Egyptian mediator Mustafa al-Buhairi

Israeli soldiers shot dead a 17-year-old Palestinian boy in the Rafah refugee camp in the occupied Gaza Strip on Wednesday, said Palestinian medical sources.

The medics named the teenager as Mustafa al-Hams, saying he had been fatally hit in the head when Israeli troops opened fire towards the camp following an explosion that damaged a nearby military position on the Israeli-occupied Gaza-Egypt border.

Meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Mahar will meet Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Israel on Monday, said a ministry spokesman on Wednesday.
Mahar is also expected to hold talks with his counterpart Silvan Shalom and Israeli President Moshe Katsav, during his one-day trip, said the spokesman.
Israeli public radio for its part said he would also travel to the occupied Palestinian territories.
Egypt has been rallying support for a Palestinian-Israeli ceasefire in order to re-launch the peace process.
Shalom held talks last week with Hosni Mubarak in Geneva in the first meeting between an Israeli official and the Egyptian president since Israel’s current government was formed.

A delegation headed by generals Mustafa al-Buhairi and Muhammad Ibrahim, assistants to Egyptian intelligence chief Umar Sulaiman, met on Tuesday with representatives from resistance factions, including Hamas spiritual leader Shaikh Ahmad Yasin in the occupied Gaza Strip.

Hamas spiritual leader Shaikh Ahmad Yasin with members of the Egyptian delegation

Hamas spiritual leader Shaikh
Ahmad Yasin with members of
the Egyptian delegation

Cairo and Amman are the only Arab countries to have diplomatic relations with Israel, but even their relations have been strained since the September 2000 outbreak of the Intifada, when countries withdrew their ambassadors to  protest Israel’s excessive use of force.

The Egyptian delegation passed on US guarantees to pressure Israel to withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories, re-occupied after the Intifada erupted, a halt to  home demolitions and brutal attacks against Palestinians, if they agree to a ceasefire, Palestinian sources told our correspondent.

Hamas, however, said it would not stop targeting Israeli civilians unless occupation sources halted attacks against Palestinian civilians, added the sources.

Unilateral moves
As Egypt was striving to bring both sides to the negotiating table, Sharon looked poised to announce a controversial package of unilateral measures.
Speculation was growing over the package the premier could announce on Thursday night at a security conference in the town of Herzliya, just outside Tel Aviv.
A newspaper report published earlier said Sharon was planning a complete withdrawal from the occupied Gaza Strip and the evacuation of some Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
US President George Bush has warned Israel against “decisions that make it hard to create a Palestinian state” and fall outside the framework of the Washington-backed  “road map” aimed at ending the conflict. 

Under international law, all Jewish settlements are illegal, a stance not recognised by Israel.  
Palestinians oppose non-negotiated decisions that might affect their future state and fear any redeployment would be considered definitive by Israel, whether or not it matches internationally recognised borders.

Sharon would also be poised for a showdown with Jewish settlers who have promised their former champion a “war” should he press on with plans to dismantle settlements.

Source : News Agencies

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