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Sunday, 4 November, 2001, 10:44 GMT
Israeli rockets hit Gaza
Palestinian militant with gun
Violence has returned to the Gaza Strip
Israeli helicopters have launched rocket attacks on Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip.

The Israelis say they were attacking three buildings which made mortars to be fired into Jewish settlements.

Palestinian police officer with relative
A relative grieves the latest victim
There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Hours before the new attacks, the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, cancelled a planned summit meeting with President George Bush in the United States next week.

An announcement from Mr Sharon's office said the trip - which was also to include talks in the UK - had been postponed indefinitely because of the security situation in Israel.

Pressure

A BBC correspondent in Jerusalem says there is speculation Mr Sharon may be trying to avoid being pressured to withdraw Israeli troops from Palestinian areas.

The Israeli Defence Minister, Binyamin Ben Eliezer, has however announced that the army will withdraw later on Sunday from Qalqilya, one of the five towns in the West Bank it occupied last month after the assassination of a cabinet minister.

On Saturday, Palestinians said a security officer was killed when Israeli troops opened fire on a police post south of Gaza City.

The Israeli army said it responded after shots were fired from there at the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom.

Palestinians demonstrating
Palestinians demand an Israeli withdrawal

Mr Sharon had been expected to meet President Bush on 11 November, as well as UK Prime Minister Tony Blair during a stopover en route to the United States.

On Saturday, a Palestinian official said Yasser Arafat would be travelling to the UN General Assembly debate from 10-12 November. President George W. Bush is also expected to attend.

As it seeks to shore up support in the Arab world for the war on terror, the United States is anxious for Israel to resume talks with the Palestinians, and to pull out of four towns it has occupied in the West Bank.


We want to be your neighbours and friends, but we don't want to commit suicide

Shimon Peres
Israeli Foreign Minister

Also on Saturday, thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv to commemorate former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was killed by an Israeli extremist six years ago.

The demonstrators called for renewed peace talks with the Palestinians, and an end to the occupation of west Bank territory.

Arafat-Peres talks

In another development Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat have met for the first time in more than a month.

The two men held talks on the sidelines of an annual Mediterranean forum held on the Spanish island of Mallorca.

Mr Arafat urged Israel to "withdraw its troops from areas under Palestinian sovereignty, raise the blockade imposed for the last 14 months and suspend its policy of murdering Palestinian activists".

But Mr Peres replied: "You must understand there are limits to what we can do. We want to be your neighbours and friends, but we don't want to commit suicide".

Israeli troops have been withdrawn from two towns - Bethlehem and nearby Beit Jala. Israel moved forces into and around the Palestinian-run towns in the West Bank on 17 October in response to the assassination of cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi.

Mr Sharon has said Palestinian security guarantees must include the arrest and handover of those behind the assassination.

See also:

02 Nov 01 | Middle East
Israeli killed in drive-by shooting
02 Nov 01 | Middle East
Israel declares seized soldiers dead
02 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Downing Street defends Blair trip
01 Nov 01 | Middle East
Blair seeks return to Mid-East peace
01 Nov 01 | Middle East
Sharon offers talks amid violence
31 Oct 01 | Middle East
Israel kills key Hamas member
19 Oct 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Israel turns right
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