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Thursday, 8 August, 2002, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
Talks on Israeli truce plan 'fail'
A Palestinian throws a stone at an Israeli army Jeep in Ramallah
Israel has taken control of most Palestinian areas
The Palestinians have accused Israel of changing its offer to withdraw from areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip - hours after the Palestinian Authority had agreed in principle to accept the Israeli proposals.

Shortly after talks ended, Israeli troops and tanks swept into Gaza, killing a Palestinian and wounding four others, Palestinian sources said.


To talk of crisis is exaggerated

Ephraim Sneh, Israeli Transport Minister
Israel also stepped up its operations against militants in the West Bank, blowing up four homes belonging to Palestinians involved in attacks on Israel.

As the violence continued, a Palestinian delegation arrived in Washington for talks with US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

It is the highest-level meeting between Palestinian and US officials since US President George W Bush called in June for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's removal.

Plan dashed

Palestinian officials accused Israel of reneging on a deal reached on Monday for Israel to start withdrawing from Palestinian areas - the so-called "Gaza First" plan.

The Palestinian cabinet secretary, Ahmed Abed al-Rahman, told the BBC Israel was now asking the Palestinians to begin arresting militants and collecting weapons before it would pull back from Gaza.

Mr Rahman said that was impossible and would provoke civil war.

Palestinian officials said Israel had also backtracked on an agreement to pull out of one West Bank town as well as Gaza.

But Israel denied the talks had broken down.

"To talk of crisis is exaggerated," Israeli Transport Minister Ephraim Sneh told Israel Army Radio.

"We are starting from positions so far apart that it's hardly to be expected that we will reach agreement in a first meeting," he said.

Mr Sneh said talks were deadlocked over Palestinian demands for Israel to withdraw from Ramallah.

He said militants in Ramallah continued to pose a threat and Israel might be able to pull out of Bethlehem instead.

Officials said more talks will be held next week, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Military action

In Gaza, about 25 Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles moved into the northern town of Beit Lahiya on Thursday morning for the second time in two days.

Palestinian woman looks at demolished house in Bethlehem
Israel demolished houses belonging to Palestinian militants

Hundreds of residents threw stones at the Israeli forces, who opened fire, Palestinian sources said, killing a 17-year-old youth and wounding several other people.

Israeli bulldozers tore down hundreds of trees and destroyed crops before pulling back after two hours, reporters said.

Israel said its incursion in northern Gaza was part of a continuing attempt to break what it calls a large terrorist infrastructure.

Israeli troops also briefly swept into central Gaza after two mortars were fired at an Israeli settlement, while forces pulled out of the town of Rafah on the Egypt-Gaza border four days after tanks went in.

In the West Bank, meanwhile, troops destroyed four homes - two belonging to two suicide bombers, one to a man who supplied explosives for an attack, and the fourth to a Palestinian militant accused of involvement in attacks against Israel.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jon Leyne
"In a way, the Palestinians share the same agenda as the Americans"

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08 Aug 02 | Middle East
06 Aug 02 | Middle East
06 Aug 02 | Middle East
06 Aug 02 | Middle East
05 Aug 02 | Middle East
05 Aug 02 | Middle East
05 Aug 02 | Middle East
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