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Israel Closes Off West Bank - 2003-06-07


The Israeli army has imposed a general closure on the West Bank. The move follows warnings of terror attacks and the decision of Hamas to cut off truce talks with Palestinian officials.

The Israeli army sealed off the West Bank late Saturday, in a move that will prevent thousands of Palestinian workers from crossing into the Jewish state. The decision came in light of intelligence alerts that some Palestinian groups were planning to launch a new wave of terror attacks.

The move also follows the announcement by the militant Islamic group Hamas that it was pulling out of talks aimed at agreeing on a suspension of violent attacks against Israelis.

Hamas announced Friday that it was cutting off talks with Palestinian officials in protest at what it sees as concessions to Israel by Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

The organization expressed anger at the speech Mr. Abbas made at this week's Mideast peace summit in Jordan.

After meeting with President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Mr. Abbas called for an end to the armed Palestinian uprising against Israel.

Mr. Abbas has appealed to groups such as Hamas, which frequently carry out suicide bombings, to suspend their operations and allow a chance for negotiations with Israel to succeed.

The Palestinian minister for security, Mohammad Dahlan, says that Hamas has no choice but to immediately return to talks on a cease-fire. Otherwise, he says, the group is seeking confrontation with the Palestinian Authority.

Other Palestinian officials were also furious with Hamas, saying the group's actions threatened to destroy the U.S.-backed "road map to peace" plan for the Middle East.

The plan is supported by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. It calls for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

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