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Saturday, 23 February, 2002, 12:36 GMT
Israel orders army restraint
Israeli soldier on guard near the car that was attacked north of Jerusalem
The conflict has claimed more than 40 lives this week
The Israeli army has been told to exercise restraint and refrain from initiating attacks inside Palestinian-controlled areas, government sources say.

The sources described the measure as a tentative agreement between security officials and say it will last for several days.

Ariel Sharon
Sharon wants to set up a buffer zone
It follows the arrest by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat of three men wanted by Israel in connection with the assassination of Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi last year.

But after a night of calm, a Palestinian man was killed by Israeli troops in the West Bank town of Hebron.

The army said he was shot as he ran threateningly towards an isolated military outpost. He was later found not to be armed.

'Tentative'

The suggestion of a truce comes after one of the most violent phases since the current Palestinian uprising began 17 months ago.

Both Israeli and Palestinian sources have confirmed there is an understanding the Israeli army will exercise restraint.

However, Israel insists it reserves the right to respond to threats to Israeli security.

The Israeli cabinet is also weighing whether to ease restrictions against Mr Arafat who has been confined to his West Bank Ramallah headquarters since last December.


Peace is achievable only when the needs of all people are recognised and fulfilled ... the fuel for attacks against Israel would be removed and the fire of violence extinguished

According to a leading Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, the cabinet remains split on the issue - Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer has reportedly argued in favour of allowing Mr Arafat to leave Ramallah, following his crackdown on Palestinian militants, but Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has declined to lift the restrictions.

The BBC's Nick Childs says, despite what looks like a respite after months of violence, the situation remains fragile.

Hours after the announcement of the new measures, a Palestinian man was killed at an Israeli military outpost Halhul - near the West Bank town of Hebron.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat inspects the damage to his Ramallah headquarters after an Israeli strike
Yasser Arafat has seen Palestinian Authority buildings hit several times
An Israeli army statement said the man - identified by Israeli public radio as Firas al-Bau, 22 - was killed at the fence after running towards the outpost shouting "Allahu Akhbar" [Allah is Great] - a phrase believed to be uttered by militants before an attack.

However, al-Bau was found to be unarmed, although a second suspect managed to run away, the statement said, adding that the army had acted according to the rules.

Last Thursday, Mr Sharon announced plans to create a security buffer zone to protect Israel from Palestinian attacks.

Saudi peace plan

Both the United States and the European Union are renewing their efforts to negotiate an end to the violence.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has said he will have a weekend of telephone calls, and the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana arrives in the Middle East on Sunday.

Mr Powell has also welcomed a Saudi peace plan that offers Israel a normalisation of relations with the Arab world if it withdraws its troops from territories it occupied in the 1967 war.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the proposals - by Crown Prince Abdullah - underscored Riyadh's willingness "to reach out to Israel, to talk about peace".

But he said the first steps had to be taken by Mr Arafat "to dismantle the groups that perpetrate violence and to end the violence".

The United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has also welcomed the Crown Prince's "positive and daring ideas and visions".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Orla Guerin
"Seven days of peace is a lot to hope for"
The BBC's John Kampfner
"We are being taken to a secret location in the heart of Jenin"
See also:

22 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israel withdraws forces from Gaza
20 Feb 02 | Middle East
Dissent in the ranks
22 Feb 02 | Middle East
Muted reaction to Sharon's speech
21 Feb 02 | Middle East
Sharon speech: More of the same
22 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israeli press blasts Sharon
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