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Sunday, 30 December, 2001, 00:44 GMT
Israel sees peace hope
Anti-Israeli protesters are met by tear gas near Ramallah
Israel's security clampdown continues to arouse anger
The Israeli defence minister has welcomed what he says are moves by the Palestinians to control militants carrying out attacks on Israel.

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said that if the trend continued movement could be made on implementing the Mitchell peace plan.

Israeli Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer
Ben-Eliezer: Palestinians on the right track
He was speaking after Palestinian police arrested two suspected members of the Islamic Jihad group in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, in the West Bank town of Ramallah, suspected militants riddled an Israeli bus with bullets, injuring no-one, and there were clashes between pro-Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops.

"If the Palestinians continue at the pace they are going now, meaning making the arrests and they start thwarting [attacks], I think that we can start implementing Mitchell," Mr Ben-Eliezer told Israeli TV.

The Mitchell plan is the internationally-backed agreement which calls for an end to violence between the two sides, the introduction of confidence-building measures and a resumption of peace talks.

Mr Ben-Eliezer, who has just been elected leader of the Labour Party in the governing coalition, was echoing earlier remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

He said on Thursday that the Palestinian leadership was making progress in cracking down on militants.

'Death to Sharon'

A recent lull in suicide attacks appeared near an end on Friday, however, when Israeli forces shot dead a would-be bomber near the Netzarim settlement in the central Gaza Strip.

Mourners around body of Mahmoud al-Borei
Suicide attacks have abated after an appeal by Yasser Arafat
Mahmoud al-Borei's funeral was held on Saturday amid angry scenes in Gaza's Jabalya refugee camp.

Hundreds of mourners shouted "death to Sharon" as they buried him.

Islamic Jihad said in a statement that he had died while ambushing Israeli troops.

Israel says it found explosives on his body and Lebanese TV broadcast a video message left by al-Borei in which he spoke of his planned suicide attack.

Tear gas

In Ramallah, meanwhile, Israeli troops fired tear gas and warning shots at a Palestinian demonstration attended by British, French and Italian sympathisers.

The demonstration had been organised to protest at Israeli "harassment and intimidation".

Israel has eased some controls over movement in the West Bank but Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat remains confined to Ramallah.

Mr Arafat's government has called for a quick return to the region by US peace envoy Anthony Zinni.

Mr Zinni went back to Washington earlier this month after his mediation efforts collapsed amid some of the worst violence of the 15-month Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.

See also:

24 Dec 01 | Middle East
Christians quit Christ's birthplace
22 Dec 01 | Middle East
Palestinians wait for Israeli move
27 Dec 01 | Middle East
Profile: Israel's new Labour leader
02 Dec 01 | Middle East
Mitchell report: Main points
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