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>Israel Faxx
>May 30, 2001, Vol. 9, No. 93

Israeli-Palestinian Violence Overshadows Security Talks

By Meredith Buel (VOA-Jerusalem)

Palestinian officials say renewed security talks with Israel have failed to make any progress towards peace in the wake of new violence that left six people dead Tuesday.

Palestinian and Israeli security officials met in Ramallah Tuesday for the first time in a month. But the meeting ended with Palestinian officials rejecting an Israeli cease-fire offer, saying they must defend themselves against Israeli aggression. The two sides, which agreed to the meeting at the urging of the U.S. envoy William Burns, are set to hold more talks in the Gaza Strip Wednesday.

One Israeli woman died when her car was fired upon by Palestinian gunmen, The meetings Tuesday were overshadowed by new violence that left three Palestinians and three Israelis dead, as well as by an announcement that Israel approved plans to build more than 700 units of new housing in West Bank settlements. Palestinian officials immediately condemned the plans.

Israeli Housing Minister Natan Sharansky says the housing units are scheduled to be built in settlements near Jerusalem and in the northern West Bank.

Palestinian official Ahmed Abdel Rahman says the move could destroy efforts by envoy William Burns to broker a cease-fire.

An international commission headed by former Sen. George Mitchell called on both sides to immediately end violence and said Israel should freeze settlement activity as part of a series of confidence-building measures.

Also Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the situation in the Middle East is spiraling out of control. He made the comment in Moscow during talks with visiting Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.

The Russian leader also spoke on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Putin said Russia will send a special envoy to the region next week.

Journalists Free After Gaza Kidnapping

By VOA News

Palestinian militants seized two western journalists in the Gaza Strip Tuesday but released them unharmed a few hours later. The captives were an American correspondent Joshua Hammer and a British photographer Gary Knight for Newsweek.

The two men were detained with a Palestinian driver and translator in Rafah while interviewing members of the Fatah Hawks, an armed militia of the mainstream Fatah faction. The journalists were told their five-hour detention was a symbolic kidnapping aimed at protesting American and British support of Israel.

A statement issued in the name of the Fatah Hawks declared that the American and British people must bear the results of the positions taken by what it called their biased governments.

Officials from the Fatah faction denied any link to the kidnapping and denounced it. A Fatah statement said the group would never treat journalists that way or make them pay for their governments' actions.

Palestinian preventive security chief Mohammad Dahlan said the kidnapping was carried out by irresponsible people unconnected with Fatah and that the security services would bring them to justice.

Lebanese President Slams Israel

By VOA News

Lebanese President Emile Lahoud has criticized what he calls the extremist and aggressive policies of the Israeli government. At a state dinner at the beginning of an official visit to France, Lahoud said the policies of the Sharon government put the entire Middle East peace process in jeopardy.

Lahoud also defended attacks made by the Lebanese resistance movement Hizbullah against Israel. The Lebanese leader told reporters in Paris that had it not been for Hizbullah, Israel would still occupy south Lebanon. French officials are concerned about Lebanon's failure to stop the Hizbullah militia from carrying out attacks on Israel.

Jews Can't Enter Or Pray There - But They Can Protest


The Jerusalem Magistrates Court has ruled against a police request to distance Kach protestors from the Temple Mount gates. Justice Michal Agmon-Gonen ruled that the Kach protest against allowing Jewish entry to the Mount is legitimate, and that the arrest of Kach activist Itamar Ben-Gvir for allegedly attempting to fight his way onto the Mount.

The judge ordered the immediate release of Ben-Gvir and said, "The police must find the appropriate way to deal with the protest." Ben-Gvir said he would file a civilian suit against the police for false arrest.

In a related item, Temple Mount Faithful leader Yehuda Etzion was recently acquitted - for the third and final time - of charges relating to his attempts to protest against the refusal to allow Jews to pray on the Temple Mount.

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