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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 10-30-2007, 10:36 PM Thread Starter
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Palestinians raise stakes for talks

Palestinians raise stakes for talks

By DALIA NAMMARI, Associated Press Writer
Tue Oct 30, 6:23 PM ET

The chief Palestinian peace negotiator raised the stakes Tuesday for a U.S.-sponsored peace conference, saying there will be no talks with Israel unless it agrees to set a deadline for establishing a Palestinian state.

Israeli aircraft, meanwhile, hit a Hamas police station in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, killing four people, hospital and Hamas officials said. The Israeli military said it targeted a Hamas position after the Islamic group pelted southern Israel with mortar shells earlier in the day.

The demand from Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia is the latest problem for the peace conference. Arab nations have been slow to endorse the effort, and Israel is making only general promises instead of specific proposals.

However, it was unclear if the Palestinians could afford to follow through with their ultimatum by boycotting a conference called by President Bush at a time when moderate President Mahmoud Abbas needs Western support and U.S. aid in his struggle against Hamas, which expelled his loyalists and took over Gaza in June. Instead, the threat could be a ploy to wring concessions from Israel.

Israel and the Palestinians differ over the issue of a timetable for setting up a Palestinian state, and talks between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have so far failed to solve the impasse.

Qureia tightened the screws Tuesday.

"The Israeli prime minister has stated that he will not accept a timetable, and we say we will not accept negotiations without a timetable," he said at a news conference with the European Union's external affairs commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

Qureia indicated the talks with Israel weren't going well.

"We haven't gotten closer yet concerning the issues," he said. "We are talking in general about the issues that should be included in the document. (But) we haven't yet touched the core issues."

What the Palestinians want, he said, is "a clear and specific document, without vagueness, that lays the basic foundation for all final status issues. Without that, the conference will be hindered."

Israeli government spokeswoman Miri Eisin said negotiations should be held behind closed doors, not through the media.

"We're not at the ultimatum stage," Eisin said. "They agreed to work to go forward, and we are committed to going forward to a joint statement."

No date has so far been set for the peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, because the two sides remain so far apart on the starting point. Israel wants a vague joint statement of objectives, but the Palestinians want a detailed outline that would address core issues.

These include final borders, sovereignty over disputed Jerusalem and a solution for Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their homes in the war that followed Israel's creation in 1948.

In the past, deadlines for establishing a Palestinian state have been set and ignored. The latest was the "road map" plan of 2003, a three-stage process ending in creation of a Palestinian state in 2005. The plan stalled at the first stage.

Qureia said a U.S. envoy, Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, is meeting with both sides to try to revive the "road map."

In Egypt on Tuesday, Abbas lashed out against Israel for cutting fuel supplies to Gaza in an effort to pressure militants there to stop their daily rocket fire into southern Israel. Ten mortar rounds exploded in an Israeli village near Gaza Tuesday afternoon, the military said. No one was hurt.

On Monday, Israel's attorney general held up the government's plan to cut back electricity supplies to Gaza, demanding more work be done to prevent humanitarian harm.

"We have told the Israelis that they are wrong in adopting these measures, which we fully reject," Abbas said after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo. "We do not accept at all this collective punishment."

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband criticized the Israeli measures Tuesday. In a statement, he condemned the rocket fire but said Israeli reprisals must "not cause suffering to innocent civilians."

Palestinians in Gaza rely on Israel for all of their fuel and more than half of their electricity.

If the energy cutbacks don't halt rocket attacks, then Israel threatens an invasion. Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio on Tuesday, "Every day that passes brings us closer to a broad operation in Gaza."
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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 10-30-2007, 10:54 PM Thread Starter
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IMO, in order to change the view / opinion of U.S. poliies in the Arab / Islamic World, one of the few effective moves left to the U.S. is to force Israel to support Statehood for the Palestinian people ASAP.
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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 10-31-2007, 02:12 AM Thread Starter
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Israel threatens Gaza invasion

Israel threatens Gaza invasion
Al Jazeera

Israel has escalated threats to invade the Gaza Strip over Palestinian rocket fire after planned economic sanctions drew objections from legal experts and foreign powers.

Since occupation forces withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Israel has mounted regular raids and air strikes on the territory, but has failed to stop rocket fire over the border.

And Hamas's de facto rule of the strip since June, following infighting with rival Fatah, has only stoked calls in the Jewish state for a big military sweep.

Late on Tuesday, Israeli aircraft bombed a police station in southern Gaza, killing at least four Hamas policemen, hospital officials said.

The Israeli military confirmed its forces carried out the shelling in Abasan village, near the city of Khan Younis. An earlier air attack on the Jabalya refugee camp wounded six civilians, according to hospital sources.

Speaking to reporters earlier, Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, said: "Every passing day brings us closer to a broad operation in Gaza.

We are not looking forward to it [and] we would be happy if circumstances prevented it."

'Collective punishment'

Israel, which controls official Gazan border crossings, began reducing the amount of fuel pumped to Gaza this week. It also wants to reduce power supplies, but has put that on hold.

The sanctions, which were put together by Barak, prompted UN and EU delegates to urge Israel not to impose "collective punishment", illegal under international law, on Gaza's 1.5 million residents.

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Israel's attorney-general also opposes cutting electricity supplies to Gaza on humanitarian grounds.

Britain said on Tuesday it was "deeply concerned" by reports that Israel had reduced Gaza's fuel supply and was considering electricity cuts, and had spoken to the Israeli government about the matter.

Makeshift Palestinian rockets have killed two Israelis this year.

Hamas has not claimed recent attacks, but Israel's military says Hamas is carrying out an arms build-up that will make it a serious fighting force.

Weighed against an invasion of Gaza is a US-organised peace conference in November between Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, who affectively only rules the occupied West Bank.

While Olmert may want calm, he is also under pressure from right-wing coalition partners to hit Hamas hard.

Haim Ramon, Israel's vice prime minister, when asked about a possible Gaza invasion, said: "The present situation will not last."

"I prefer that we use sanctions. I believe that the implementation of sanctions will be effective. But we have our doubts about it."

In the interview with Reuters news agency, he added: "If they stop sending rockets over, our need for the weapons of sanctions, or other weapons, will not be an issue."
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