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Wednesday, 31 October, 2001, 22:56 GMT
Israel kills key Hamas member
Jamil Jadallah was in the building when it was hit by a missile
Israel said Jamil Jadallah was planning a major attack
Israeli security forces have killed a senior member of the Palestinian militant group Hamas and five other Palestinians in several separate incidents in the Middle East.

They said that Hamas member Jamil Jadallah had been wanted in connection with attacks on Israel, including a suicide bombing at a Tel Aviv disco on 1 June in which 20 teenagers died.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat condemned the killing of Jadallah as an "assassination" and "completely against what was agreed upon" with the Israelis.

The killings came as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon - who has refused to speak to Mr Arafat while violence continues - indicated he was willing to lead negotiations with the Palestinians.

"We are ready to negotiate," he told leaders of the World Jewish Congress in Jerusalem.

Shimon Peres (left) and Ariel Sharon
Mr Sharon said he would lead peace talks
"Myself, I am going to lead all the negotiations, I really believe in that."

A senior Palestinian official, Nabil Shaath, dismissed Mr Sharon's words.

"This man has not shown any signal aiming to achieve peace," he said.

"He has only shown his aim toward killing, destruction and aggression."

Wednesday's killings came amid indications that Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres would meet Mr Arafat at the end of the week.

Repeated escapes

Israeli sources said Jadallah was planning new attacks inside Israel.

Mr Sharon's office said Jadallah had escaped Palestinian custody four times and the Palestinian Authority had "provided him protection and allowed him to continue his activities in Hamas' military wing".

According to Palestinian sources, Israeli troops also killed another member of Hamas, Abdullah Jaroushi, in Tulkarm.

Jamil Jadallah
Israel accused the Palestinian Authority of protecting Jamil Jadallah
In a separate incident on the road between Tulkarm and Nablus, Israeli troops killed two members of Mr Arafat's Fatah faction after they reportedly opened fire on a car carrying Israelis.

And in a shootout near the town of Qalqilya, Israeli soldiers killed two Palestinian policemen.

Israeli forces also made a series of arrests when they raided the Palestinian-controlled West Bank village of Arrabe, near Jenin, with tanks and bulldozers.

Mujahed Abu Jalboush, a member of the militant Islamic Jihad group, was among those detained.

Islamic Jihad was allegedly behind an attack on Sunday in the northern Israeli town of Hadera, in which four Israeli women were killed.

Pushing peace

Meanwhile, the Palestinian leader himself, who has been visiting Norway, said he hoped to hold talks with the Israeli foreign minister on the sidelines of an economic conference in Spain on Friday "to push the peace process forward".

But the Israeli prime minister has said he is against allowing Mr Peres to meet Mr Arafat until the Palestinians end their uprising.

Mr Peres said for his part that he intended to submit new Middle East peace proposals to Mr Sharon.

He declined to confirm a report in the Israeli Maariv newspaper that his plan included the dismantling of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip - a proposal which has been strongly opposed by Mr Sharon.

No pull-out

Israel has so far dismissed international calls to pull its troops out of four West Bank towns.

Senior Israeli officials said the army would withdraw from its positions only when the Palestinians guaranteed security.

Mr Sharon has said this includes the arrest and handover of those behind the assassination of cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi.

Washington, keen to see peace in the Middle East as it fights its war on terrorism, has urged Israel to continue its withdrawal, following the redeployment of troops from Bethlehem and Beit Jala on Sunday.

The Palestinian Authority has ruled out any extraditions, but Israeli officials have indicated that that if militants are arrested in sufficient numbers, their forces will pull back.

Israel moved forces into and around the Palestinian-run towns in the West Bank on 17 October in response to the assassination of Zeevi.

The BBC's James Reynolds
"Israeli forces have maintained their positions"
Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami
"The only policy we need to pursue is renewing the peace talks"
See also:

26 Oct 01 | Middle East
Analysis: US unease over Israeli action
25 Oct 01 | Middle East
Arabs see advantage in terror war
24 Oct 01 | Middle East
Israel says raid nets key suspects
28 Oct 01 | Middle East
Rumsfeld: Iraq may be target
31 Oct 01 | Middle East
Peres pushes new peace plan
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