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Tuesday, 6 November, 2001, 21:33 GMT
Israel announces new pull-back
Body of Palestinian shot near Nablus
The Palestinians were shot by an Israeli army patrol
The Israeli army has announced that it will withdraw from the centre of the Palestinian town of Ramallah on Tuesday night, although violence elsewhere in the West Bank has left six people dead earlier during the day.

We intend to withdraw tonight

Yarden Vatikay
Israeli Defence Ministry spokesman
The Israeli Defence Ministry said that it would maintain a security blockade around Ramallah after the withdrawal.

Israel has withdrawn from three towns - Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Qalqilya - in the past week, following intense pressure from the US.

There are no published plans to withdraw from Jenin and Tulkarm yet. All the invasions occurred after last month's killing of an Israeli cabinet minister by Palestinian militants.

The defence ministry statement said that while withdrawing from central Ramallah the army "reserves the right to act freely and to continue to launch all necessary operations... to foil attacks".

Six dead

Two Palestinian activists died earlier on Tuesday after an explosion hit their car in the West Bank town of Jenin.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat listens to a speech by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in Spain on Saturday
Arafat and Peres have met several times recently
The two men were named as Ikrima Isteidi and Majdi Jaradat, members of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction.

Isteidi was wanted by Israel, according to acting governor of Jenin, Haider Irshad.

In another incident, three Palestinian gunmen and an Israeli soldier were killed in an exchange of fire near Nablus.

An Israeli field commander in the area, Colonel Yossi Adiri, said that the Palestinians opened fire, killing the Israeli soldier, and that the three Palestinians died in the subsequent exchange.

But a Red Crescent official in Nablus, Dr Mohammad Awadeh, called one of the killings "a pure execution".

US pressure

Security officials on both sides have been meeting to coordinate Israel's withdrawal from Palestinian-controlled towns it invaded after the assassination of its tourism minister, Rehavam Zeevi.

The US, concerned that regional instability could jeopardise its anti-Taleban coalition, has put pressure on both sides to stop the violence.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell told Egyptian TV on Monday that the 13-month-old intifada, or uprising, reflected the frustrations of the Palestinian people, but that it would not solve their problems.

"What we need to do is to end the violence, bring that period of violence to an end," Mr Powell said, adding that he had asked Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to make a greater effort to end the violence.

At the same time, Mr Powell criticised Israel's use of force against Palestinians.

Diplomatic efforts

Amid ongoing diplomatic efforts to resume the peace process, Israel's Defence Minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, might visit Egypt within a week for high-level talks, diplomatic sources said in Cairo.

And Israel's dovish Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has been working with the hawkish Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, on a new Middle East peace plan.

"My (peace) plan is still being worked out... and we are trying to see if I can find something jointly with the prime minister," Mr Peres told Israel's Army Radio on Tuesday.

Israeli media said the plan called for the establishment of a demilitarised Palestinian state buffered by Israeli-controlled security zones in the West Bank.

According to the liberal daily Haaretz, a Palestinian state would be created in stages, with the Gaza Strip, most of which is under Palestinian control, serving as a model.

A Palestinian official dismissed the plan.

"Serious talks with the Israelis will resume once we hear them talking about Palestinian rights and a withdrawal from the territories, ending settlements, establishing the Palestinian state and the return of Jerusalem and refugees," said Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, a senior aide to Mr Arafat.

Palestinian state

The London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat has reported that Mr Arafat is considering unilaterally declaring an independent Palestinian state during a UN General Assembly meeting at the end of the week.

But Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli Arab parliament member and former advisor to Mr Arafat, has played down the al-Hayat report.

"This idea has not been discussed in the necessary PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) forums," he said. "There is no such plan at this time as far as I know."

The BBC's Kylie Morris in Jerusalem
"The Israeli Defence Ministry says the forces will come out of the cente of Ramallah"
The BBC's Jeremy Cooke
"The violence comes as Yasser Arafat and... Shimon Peres are engaged in a series of informal meetings"
See also:

05 Nov 01 | Middle East
Arafat and Peres meet in Brussels
05 Nov 01 | Middle East
Israeli troops leave West Bank town
02 Nov 01 | Middle East
Israeli killed in drive-by shooting
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
09 Aug 01 | Middle East
Who are Islamic Jihad?
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