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Prime Minister Abbas Cancels Gaza Tour - 2003-05-21


In the middle east, there’s a published report in the New York Times that President Bush is considering a trip to the Middle East to meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the next few weeks. Tuesday President Bush spoke to both by telephone about the road map plan for Middle East peace and recent suicide attacks in Israel. Wednesday Mr. Abbas cancelled a planned tour of a Gaza town after Israeli forces returned to the area. Amy Katz reports.

Mr. Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, was scheduled to visit this town – Beit Hanoun – on the Gaza Strip Wednesday to survey the damage from the recent Israeli incursion.

Sufian Abu Zaida, head of the Committee for Coordination between Palestinians and Israelis – an official group working on implementation of previous accords - said his group contacted the Israelis and asked them to withdraw their forces so the new Palestinian Prime Minister could make his visit.

SUFIAN ABU ZAIDA, PALESTINIAN—ISRAELI LIAISON
“But they refused. They insisted to continue their operations - as they told us – in the industrial zone. As a result of that, Abu Mazen decided to cancel his visit or at least to delay it for the near future.”

Israeli troops demolished 15 houses, uprooted dozens of trees and damaged water and sewage systems – before they pulled back from Beit Hanoun Tuesday. The Israeli military said most of the destruction was aimed at depriving Palestinian militants of cover.

Several hundred residents blocked a main road and burned tires – to show their anger at the militants - whom they blame for provoking the Israeli attacks on their town.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Palestinian provocation has to stop.

SILVAN SHALOM, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER
“I think Abu Mazen, Mahmoud Abbas, has to take immediate action against terrorism. He has to stop the violence and stop the incitement.”

On the West Bank Wednesday, the Israeli military destroyed two buildings in Nablus. Israel said one of the buildings was the home of a Palestinian militant. The other contained an explosives factory.

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