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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 June 2006, 23:21 GMT 00:21 UK
Hamas agrees to withdraw militia
Member of Hamas force
The Hamas force has been withdrawn before
The Hamas-led Palestinian government has agreed to withdraw a controversial militia from the streets of Gaza.

Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad said the black-clad militia "are going to be in places away from the public".

The deal is aimed at ending weeks of violent tensions between Hamas, and Fatah factions loyal to the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Meanwhile, Palestinian sources say three Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli soldiers near the Gaza border.

Details are still sketchy, but according to Israeli security sources, the three were spotted preparing to mount an attack, and soldiers opened fire and hit them as they approached the border between Gaza and Israel.

Palestinian talks

In a further bid to reduce tension between Hamas and Fatah, Palestinian officials are also having talks over a peace plan by the Palestinian Authority president that implicitly recognises Israel. A deadline has been extended.

President Mahmoud Abbas has given Hamas until Saturday to accept the 18-point plan or he will put it to a referendum, his officials say.

It was drawn up by leading members of the two factions jailed by Israel, to confront what they see as the threat of Israel imposing a unilateral solution precluding a viable Palestinian state.

King Abdullah II, who is due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jordan on Thursday, said he opposed unilateral steps by Israel.

'Not visible'

Hamas and Fatah have told their supporters to stop fighting each other, after escalating violence that has left nearly 20 people dead in Gaza in the last month.

Previous agreements to end factional fighting have been short-lived.

Egyptian diplomats have been mediating during lengthy talks to try to bring an end to the violence.

Ghazi Hamad said Hamas had agreed its private militia are "not going to be visible to people", and will be folded into the official Palestinian police force, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Hamas agreed to withdraw the 3,000-strong force a week ago, but gunmen reappeared on the streets within days.

Question marks

King Abdullah told Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth that Mr Olmert's "convergence plan" - withdrawing from some Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and consolidating others - could jeopardise Israel-Jordan relations.

He said any unilateral move on Israel's part might deprive the Palestinians of their legitimate and internationally recognised right to an independent state.

"A unilateral step by Israel would raise question marks and a sense of insecurity not only among the Palestinians, but among all the partners of peace in the region," he said.

King Abdullah said he had his own proposals on how to create a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Mr Olmert's trip to Jordan comes shortly after his meeting in Egypt with President Hosni Mubarak, where neither side raised the convergence plan in public.

"A negotiated peace settlement between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples is essential to move the peace process on all other tracks," Mr Mubarak said at a news conference.

Israeli officials stress unilateral steps will only be adopted after negotiations are exhausted, although Palestinians have accused Israel of not being serious about talks.




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