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Israeli, Palestinian Officials Consider Immunity Deal for Some Militants - 2003-07-24

Israeli and Palestinian officials are negotiating a deal to grant immunity from prosecution to some Palestinian militants. The discussions are aimed at bolstering the international road map to peace in the Middle East. Israeli and Palestinian officials say under the proposals some wanted Palestinians would be granted immunity from prosecution by the Israeli authorities.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that in exchange, the Palestinian Authority would guarantee that the alleged offenders would not carry out terrorist acts against Israeli targets.

Palestinian officials said the talks are part of an effort to reach agreement with rebel armed Palestinian cells to end their activities and, in some cases, to draft them into the Palestinian security services.

In recent weeks, officials of Fatah, the main faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, have said that some form of immunity is necessary in order for them to agree to lay down their arms.

Some Fatah members also claim immunity is vital for maintaining a three-week-old ceasefire by Palestinian groups.

In a separate development, Israeli police on Thursday shot dead an Arab Israeli driver who refused to stop at a roadblock near the West Bank.

The man, a Bedouin, was attempting to bring four Palestinians from the West Bank into Israel illegally, an Israeli police spokesman said.

Members of the dead man's family arrived on the scene and pelted police with rocks, injuring several of the officers.

It was the second such incident this week. On Tuesday, Israeli police, on high alert for possible terrorists, shot dead an Israeli Arab driver who ignored an order to stop.

Police later confirmed that no weapons or explosives were found inside the vehicle.