- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 10, 2004

JERUSALEM — The Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers have rescheduled a much-delayed first summit meeting for next week and will take up issues ranging from Israel’s planned pullout from the Gaza Strip to attempts to restart a U.S.-backed peace plan, both sides said yesterday.

But Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia denied a date had been set.

Also yesterday, Israeli undercover units killed five Palestinians in a raid in the West Bank town of Jenin. Four of them were militants from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militia linked to Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, Palestinians said. The identity of the fifth person wasn’t known.

Israel’s Shin Bet security service said it has arrested a Hezbollah operative who was planning to use a remote-controlled airplane packed with explosives to attack a Jewish settlement. Shadi Abu Alhazin, 22, a resident of the Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza, began building the plane in 2002, the agency said in a statement. He was arrested in December.

The long-delayed summit was scheduled for Tuesday, a senior Palestinian official said, but both sides emphasized that plans remained tentative.

Speaking in Norway, however, Mr. Qureia said: “The date is not fixed yet. There will be a meeting between the delegations.”

He said Israeli and Palestinian delegations would meet next week to discuss an agenda and whether the likely outcome of a summit makes it worth having one.

Hassan Abu Libdeh, an adviser to Mr. Qureia, said a summit would depend on the outcome of a preparatory session Sunday between the leaders’ aides.

Raanan Gissin, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said “there are discussions about possibly holding a meeting on this date, but it cannot be confirmed.”

Israeli media reported the main topic at the summit would be Mr. Sharon’s plan to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, a key Israel adviser on Israel’s West Bank separation barrier told the Ha’aretz daily that the government had decided against building a section that would encircle Palestinians.

Dany Tirza said the government had decided against putting up a fence in the Jordan Valley on the eastern section of the West Bank “because of the diplomatic damage” it would cause.

He said there would be a 1.43-mile “hole” in the barrier being built around Jerusalem, so as not to leave the 32,000 residents who live in the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim on the West Bank side of the barrier.

The report came amid a flurry of diplomatic meetings on Mr. Sharon’s withdrawal proposal.

Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman met with Mr. Arafat in Ramallah yesterday to discuss the plan. Mr. Suleiman secretly met with Mr. Sharon earlier in the week, ahead of a planned meeting today of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. The meeting in Cairo will be the highest-level Israeli-Egyptian meeting since Mr. Sharon took office three years ago.

Three U.S. envoys were to arrive in Jerusalem today for another round of talks on Mr. Sharon’s “disengagement plan.” Israeli officials traveled to Washington last week to discuss the proposal with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

After those meetings, Israeli officials said the sides needed to hold further discussions before a possible meeting between Mr. Sharon and President Bush.

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