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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 March, 2005, 22:51 GMT
UN rights expert praises Israel
Israeli soldier frisks Palestinian in the Gaza Strip
Israel has eased measures against the Palestinians in recent weeks
A UN human rights expert has praised Israel for taking steps to improve the condition of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Special rapporteur John Dugard welcomed Israel's halting of targeted killings, the removal of some checkpoints and a plan to pull out of the Gaza Strip.

But he said Palestinian patience was running out over the issue of West Bank settlements and prisoner releases.

Israel rejected much of the report, saying Mr Dugard's mandate was biased.

'Brave move'

In his report to the UN Human Rights Commission, Mr Dugard, said Israel had made "important moves in the right direction".

Without settlements, a two-state solution is possible
John Dugard
UN special rapporteur
He highlighted Israel's recent release of some Palestinian prisoners, its decision to stop demolishing Palestinian homes and the re-routing of sections of the West Bank barrier.

Mr Dugard, who has seriously criticised Israel in the past, also singled out Israel's plan to pull settlers out of the Gaza Strip.

"It is a brave move on the part of Israel, and one that divides Israel," he said.

But he said more needed to be done, particularly with regard to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and freeing more prisoners.

"I believe that Palestinian patience is not unlimited, and that if Israel does not address some of the key issues, then Palestinian patience will run out and militants will once more resume their activities and threaten Israel's security," Mr Dugard warned.

"Without settlements, a two-state solution is possible. With them it becomes impossible," he said.

The report said the Palestinian Authority needed to control militants, while Israel needed to "keep its side of the bargain" by tackling human rights.

Israel's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Yitzhak Levanon, welcomed "new and positive elements" in the report.

But he said much of the report was "misinformed or inaccurate", and that Mr Dugard's mandate failed to address Palestinian human rights abuses.

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