May 24, 2007 in Nation/World

Palestinians push for new cease-fire

Sarah El Deeb Associated Press

Deaths rise

» Israeli troops killed more than 650 Palestinians last year – half of them unarmed civilians including some 120 children – a threefold increase from 2005, a leading human rights group said Wednesday.

» The number of Israelis killed by Palestinian armed groups diminished by half last year, to 27, including 20 civilian adults and one child, the Amnesty International report said.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas made a new push Wednesday to restore a cease-fire with Israel that had collapsed under a barrage of Hamas rocket fire.

The two leaders met for the first time since Hamas-Fatah fighting that has killed more than 50 Palestinians broke out two weeks ago. The two sides reached a truce over the weekend, but tensions remain high because the key dispute over the security forces remains unresolved.

In a challenge to that shaky internal truce, gunmen opened fire from a passing car late Wednesday on the Gaza City home of a prominent Fatah official, Maher Miqdad, injuring at least two of his bodyguards. Miqdad, who was away from his home at the time at a meeting on how to shore up the cease-fire, blamed Hamas for the attack.

Intensified Hamas rocket fire accompanying the Palestinian infighting touched off a week of Israeli airstrikes that have killed more than 40 Palestinians, most of them militants. Six rockets landed in Israel on Wednesday, and Israeli aircraft attacked sites in the Gaza City area throughout the day.

A Haniyeh aide, Ahmed Yousef, said a cease-fire with Israel would have to be comprehensive, and include the West Bank in addition to Gaza. The previous truce, brokered in November, applied only to the Gaza-Israel border, and Israel rejected repeated Palestinian demands that it also halt arrest raids in the West Bank.

The meeting ended with the two sides agreeing their factions would meet again.

Early Thursday, Israeli troops arrested more than 30 senior Hamas members, the army said, including a Cabinet minister, legislators and mayors.

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