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Are al-Qaeda Terrorists In P.A.?

By IsraelNationalNews.com

The New York Post reports that a number of Al-Qaeda terrorists have successfully made their way into PLO-controlled territory in Gaza. They apparently crossed over from Egypt via the Rafiach tunnels. Israeli and American security forces believe, according to the Post, that some of Osama Bin-Laden's close assistants are among the Gaza group. Other Bin-Laden troops may have taken up positions in Lebanon. It is still not clear if their intentions are to establish terrorist cells, or if they are there only to seek refuge from the U.S. anti-terror forces.


Arafat Condemns Terror Attacks Against Israel

By VOA News

Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat said he was determined to put an end to all terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians.

In an article published Sunday in The New York Times, Arafat said terrorist groups "do not represent the Palestinian people, or their legitimate aspirations for freedom." He said Palestinians want to end their conflict with Israel, and that he and his negotiators are ready to meet Israeli leaders to negotiate a peace deal.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told his cabinet Sunday that he would not rule out a second round of high-level meetings with senior Palestinian officials.

At the cabinet meeting, Sharon confirmed he held candid discussions last week with three leading Palestinian figures, including the deputy head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. He said the talks focused on ways to end more than 16 months of fighting that has left more than 1,000 people dead and thousands more injured.

Israeli media reports said the Palestinian officials demanded that Israel stop the planned killings of Palestinians suspected of plotting deadly attacks against Israeli civilians.

Sharon reportedly told the Palestinians he would do so only if the Palestinian leadership made a serious effort to halt the terrorist attacks. He also said Arafat, who remains under virtual house arrest, will not be allowed to travel until he hands over those responsible for last year's assassination of Israel's tourism minister, Rehavam Ze'evi. Sharon is due in Washington this week for talks with President George W. Bush.

In related developments, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and the speaker of the Palestinian legislature, Ahmed Quray, met for another round of talks aimed at ending more than 16 months of Middle East violence. Their second meeting in as many days took place late Saturday, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in New York. After the talks, Peres said the two sides did not reach any conclusions about how to get back to the peace process.

U.S. and Israeli officials have dismissed statements by Arafat that he is determined to end terror attacks. Secretary of State Colin Powell said he was pleased that Arafat condemns terrorism, but said action is what is needed. National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice said the United States has not yet seen the 100 percent effort from Arafat that is needed to get the peace process going again.

Sharon also signaled that he wants to see actions rather than words. Sharon said he has not been persuaded by the Palestinian leader's remarks and does not believe anybody else should be.


Sharon Signals Continued Contacts with Palestinians

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has signaled that he is likely to hold more meetings with top Palestinian officials despite objections from Jewish settler groups. His comments followed his face-to-face talks last week with Palestinian Authority leaders, the first such discussions since he came to power nearly a year ago.

Sharon told his Cabinet that his first-ever high-level contacts with senior Palestinian officials were not a sign of a change of strategy in what he described as Israel's "fight against terror." He was speaking after the disclosure that he had met with three leading Palestinian figures at his Jerusalem residence last week.

Sharon confirmed that he had candid discussions with the deputy head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Ahmed Qurei'a, and Mohammed Rashid, who is in charge of economic policy and financial affairs in the office of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.

Leaders of the Jewish settler movement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip accused the prime minister of breaking his pledge not to negotiate under fire. Israeli newspapers printed extensive reports of the conversations.

According to the Israeli media, the Palestinian officials demanded that Israel stop its policy of targeted killings of Palestinians suspected of planning or involvement in attacks against Jews.

Sharon replied that he would do so only if the Palestinian Authority made a serious effort to halt terrorism. He also emphasized that the most the Palestinian Authority could expect from Israel at this stage was a long-term interim agreement.

Sharon said he rejected a plan drafted by Queri'a and the Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres, which calls for a Palestinian state to be established in the Gaza Strip and 42 percent of the West Bank, after which talks would begin on the final boundaries.


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