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  Renewed hopes for peace in Middle East
Updated 30 June 2003, 08.04
Israeli tanks withdraw from the northern Gaza Strip
There are renewed hopes for peace in the Middle East after Israeli troops handed control of the northern Gaza Strip to Palestinian police.

The Gaza Strip is one of the pieces of land the two sides have been fighting over.

The move comes after three militant Palestinian groups - Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah - agreed to stop fighting.

The groups have been behind suicide bombings and other attacks on Israelis.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad agreed to stop attacking Israelis for three months. Fatah said its ceasefire would last for six months.

Palestinian children celebrate the departure of the Israeli troops

The developments are being seen as important steps in a US-backed peace plan for the Middle East, known as the roadmap.

However, Israel is not happy with the truce announcement by the militant groups.

It wants the groups to be broken up completely - as required by the roadmap.

The US is pleased with the truce.

"Anything that reduces violence is a step in the right direction," said a US spokesman.

Condoleezza Rice, the US National Security Adviser, spent the weekend in the Middle East, urging leaders on both sides to press ahead with the roadmap.



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Find OutGuide to the Middle East
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Past StoriesBORDER=0
Palestinian groups suspend Israeli violence
Hopes of peace in the Middle East rise
Militant Palestinian group 'to stop fighting'
Bush to chair Middle East peace talks
Israel's politicians accept 'roadmap' peace plan

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