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Israeli-Palestinian Summit Could Take Place by Year's End


A rare summit between Israeli and Palestinian leaders could take place in a few days. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, plans for the meeting are going ahead, despite a fresh wave of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip.

Moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he hopes to hold a long-awaited summit with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert by the end of the year.

Mr. Abbas told a news conference in the West Bank town of Ramallah that there has been progress in preparations for the meeting, which would be the first since Mr. Olmert was elected in March.

Mr. Olmert will not deal with the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas because it seeks Israel's destruction. But he supports President Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen, because he opposes the policies of Hamas.

"We want to negotiate with Abu Mazen, we will be meeting with him, and I plan to see him and see what I can do to help him," he said.

Plans for the summit coincide with an escalation in Palestinian rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip that are testing a fragile cease-fire. At least 10 homemade Kassam rockets have been fired at Israel during the past two days, but Mr. Olmert is opting for restraint.

"There was a cease-fire declared a month ago, and since then there were 40 Kassam rockets shot from Gaza," he said. "And the shooting continues and Israel did not respond even one time."

With rival Palestinian factions fighting each other in Gaza over the past 10 days, officials say Israel does not want to exacerbate a situation that is already chaotic and unstable.

Hamas and the rival Fatah faction, led by Mr. Abbas, agreed to a cease-fire Tuesday in a bid to end the bloodshed that has raised fears of a Palestinian civil war. That truce appears to be taking hold.

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