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Last Updated: Friday, 4 July, 2003, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
Abbas meets Palestinian groups
Palestinian security forces
Palestinian security forces have arrested militants

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is having talks in Gaza with leaders of Islamic Jihad, as part of his efforts to reinforce a ceasefire declared by militant groups.

On Thursday, Mr Abbas - widely known as Abu Mazen - held discussions with Hamas and Yasser Arafat's Fatah organisation.

The three groups have declared a temporary ceasefire, in line with the American-sponsored peace plan known as the roadmap.

However but Palestinian splinter groups have continued to carry out acts of violence.

Phase 1 (to May 2003): End to violence against Israelis and Palestinians; Palestinian political reform; Israeli withdrawal and freeze on settlement expansion; Palestinian elections
Phase 2: (June-Dec 2003) Creation of an independent Palestinian state; international conference and international monitoring of compliance with roadmap
Phase 3 (2004-2005): Second international conference; permanent status agreement and end of conflict; agreement on final borders, Jerusalem, refugees and settlements; Arab states to agree to peace deals with Israel

On Thursday Palestinian police arrested four militants in connection with a rocket attack on Kfar Darom settlement in the Gaza Strip.

The move triggered an angry demonstration outside Abu Mazen's house in Gaza.

The BBC's David Chazan in Jerusalem says the protest reflected the difficulties he faces in pursuing the peace process with Israel and maintaining Palestinian support for the ceasefire.

Israel has protested to the Palestinian Authority about the rocket attack. On Thursday it temporarily reimposed a roadblock on the main highway through the territory.

Abu Mazen condemned the attack, along with the recent shooting of a foreign worker in the West Bank, as "sabotage operations" which the Palestinian Authority would not accept.

Prisoner releases

A Hamas spokesman described the talks with Abu Mazen as positive, but said there was no question of accepting Israel's demand for the group to be disarmed.

For his part, the Palestinian prime minister called on Israel to free more prisoners and withdraw its forces not only from Gaza but from all Palestinian territory occupied in the three years since the latest uprising intifada began.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades militant
The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades have not joined the truce
The release of prisoners is a key Palestinian demand, included in the ceasefire declarations of the three main Palestinian militant organisations.

On Thursday the Israelis released the head of the Gaza Strip security services, Suleiman Abu Mutlak, who had been held in administrative detention since May.

Also on Thursday Israeli troops shot dead a member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in the West Bank city of Qalqilya

In the past week the Israeli army has pulled out of central and northern parts of the Gaza Strip, and well as Bethlehem in the West Bank.

However, the Israeli Government has said Palestinian militant groups would have to be disarmed before Israel would pull out of any other Palestinian areas.

Israel and the Palestinians



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