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Middle East Peace Summit Challenged by Conflict - 2003-06-05

One day after a Middle East Peace summit with U.S. President George W. Bush, Israeli and Palestinian officials announce they will hold a series of talks in the coming days, to discuss how to proceed with the "road map" peace plan. But on the ground, hard liners on both sides were angered by promises made at the summit. Amy Katz has more.

In Gaza Thursday, hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets to show their support for Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, who was not invited to participate in the summit.

In Ramallah, the sidelined leader was asked whether Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s vow to remove illegal Jewish settlement outposts represents tangible progress.

“Unfortunately he has not yet offered anything tangible. What is the significance of moving a trailer from one location to another?”

Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas welcomed the vow and pledged to put an end to terror attacks by militant groups against Israelis.

At the Wednesday summit, Mr. Sharon said Israel understands that a Palestinian state would need contiguous territory and he pledged to dismantle the illegal settlement outposts, which consist mainly of trailers.

In Jerusalem late Wednesday, more than 10,000 Jewish settlers turned out to protest any such action. They vowed to block any attempt to dismantle the West Bank and Gaza outposts.

In the Khan Younis camp on the Gaza Strip Thursday, members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a Palestinian militant group with links to Mr. Arafat and Mr. Abbas, held training exercises, promising to continue fighting against Israel. The group has carried out many attacks against Israel. It joined other Palestinian militant organizations in rejecting any ceasefire initiatives, until Israel pulls out of the West Bank and Gaza.

Just a day after the landmark summit, security was tight across Israel and the Palestinian territories. It could be seen at military checkpoints, and in Jerusalem as well.

But on the international stage, the summit played well. In Beijing Thursday, China welcomed what it called the positive results of the talks, calling on the Israelis and Palestinians to implement the peace plan.

The European Union issued a statement echoing those sentiments, and calling the summit “an important step that creates a real prospect for peace.”