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Palestinian Cease-Fire Talks End without Deal - 2003-06-16

Efforts to reach a formal cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militant groups have hit a snag. Palestinian militants ended two days of meetings in the Gaza Strip with Egyptian negotiators, without agreeing to a cease-fire.

Egyptian mediators failed to get the militants to agree to a cease-fire, despite reports America has given its assurance that Israel will stop targeted killings of Palestinians suspected of terrorism.

Hamas leader Ismail Abu Shinab said after the meeting broke up that now is not the time for a truce.

But Palestinian officials remain hopeful a cease-fire can be agreed to and soon. Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said he hopes to get some answers from the militant factions by Tuesday.

The militants have said they would only consider suspending their attacks if Israel promises to halt military strikes, including targeted killings. They also say they would only observe such a cease-fire in Israel proper and not in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Egyptian mediators have invited the militant factions to continue their discussions later this week in Cairo.

Meanwhile, Israel's parliament gave its support to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's recent statement that a peace settlement will be impossible, unless the Palestinian Authority cracks down on militants.

After a tumultuous session, the parliament voted 57-42 for a non-binding resolution in support of the Sharon position.

Mr. Sharon told his Cabinet on Sunday that Israel would continue targeting, what he termed, ticking bombs, a reference taken to mean militants about to carry out attacks.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom also rejected the idea of a cease-fire agreement with Hamas, saying Palestinian security forces have to dismantle militias, as required by the so-called road map peace plan.