Israel halted the expansion of a Jewish settlement on a disputed hilltop in the occupied West Bank on Monday, deciding that the bulldozers were undermining peace talks with the Palestinians.
But the Palestinians said the compromise offered by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to the Jewish settlers - allowing them to build on another hill closer to the settlement - would not stop confrontations.
“Rabin cannot solve the problem by removing his bulldozers from one side of the mountain to the other,” said Saeb Erakat, municipal minister in the Palestinian self-rule authority.
He said Israel had to choose between settlement construction and the peace talks.
Also Monday, Israeli soldiers at the northern end of the Gaza Strip shot and killed three Palestinian police officers in the deadliest encounter between the forces since Palestinian self-rule began in Gaza last May.
There were conflicting accounts of what had happened in the shootings, which began in thick fog that enveloped the coastal strip. Nor was it clear if the incident would have repercussions on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that were already heavily burdened by disputes over Israeli settlements and other issues.
Besides the events in Gaza, the occupied West Bank was rocked by violence on Monday when Israeli forces killed three Islamic militants, one during a raid on his house near Hebron and the other two in a shootout near Bethlehem. In Nablus, an Israeli who was heading for prayer at the Joseph’s Tomb shrine strayed by mistake into a Palestinian refugee camp, where he was hit with stones and iron rods, and suffered slight injuries.
The Gaza clash occurred near Beit Hanoun, a Palestinian town at the northern end of the strip whose borders are still patrolled by the Israeli army despite its withdrawal eight months ago from Palestinian cities and refugee camps.
Each side blamed the other.