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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-324779 Israel / Palestinians (L)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=5/21/2005

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE= ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS

NUMBER=2-324779

BYLINE=ROBERT BERGER

DATELINE= JERUSALEM

HEADLINE: Hamas Halts Shelling as Mideast Diplomacy Intensifies

INTRO: Palestinian militants have suspended attacks against Israel that were threatening the fragile Mideast cease-fire. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, the announcement comes ahead of high level diplomacy aimed at getting the peace process back on track.

TEXT: The Islamic militant group Hamas has agreed to halt a wave of mortar and rocket attacks on Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. The attacks were threatening to unravel the three-month-old Mideast cease-fire because Israel had vowed to retaliate harshly. Israeli spokesman Ra'anan Gissin.

/// GISSIN ACT ///

"We reserve the right to take any necessary measure, any necessary action, on behalf of Israel's self-defense."

/// END ACT ///

Three Palestinian militants have been killed since Wednesday, when Israeli forces responded to some 60 shells fired from Gaza. Fearing a dangerous escalation, Palestinian Interior Minister Nasser Yousef met with Hamas leaders and persuaded them to abide by the truce. Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat told VOA that the collapse of the cease-fire would not serve the interests of any party.

/// EREKAT ACT ///

"It will not serve the Israelis, nor the Palestinians, nor anyone in the region. So it is a must that we exert maximum efforts in order to sustain the cease-fire and the cessation of violence."

/// END ACT ///

The restoration of calm gives a boost to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who will hold his first meeting with President Bush at the White House on Thursday. But Mr. Abbas is likely to face U.S. pressure to dismantle groups like Hamas, in compliance with the internationally-backed roadmap peace plan. Mr. Erekat has both sides have obligations.

/// EREKAT ACT ///

"Well, I think that we have our obligations very clearly, the Israelis have their obligations, and things should go parallel."

/// END ACT ///

Israeli obligations include halting settlement activity and handing West Bank cities over to Palestinian control. Neither side has kept its commitments, but efforts are underway to break the deadlock. There's talk of a summit between Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in June. (SIGNED).

NEB/RB/KBK



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