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Palestinian Policeman Arrested in Checkpoint Attack


Palestinian security forces have arrested a Palestinian policeman in connection with an attack on a military checkpoint, a day earlier, that left two Israeli soldiers dead. The arrest comes amid reports Israel is prepared to conditionally halt targeted killings of suspected terrorists.

Israel radio repored the arrests, quoting Palestinian sources as saying the suspect admits to the shooting and described how he carried out the attack and how he got away. The al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which is linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah Movement, claim responsibility for the attack.

Israeli media report the attack revealed security lapses at the checkpoint on the Tunnel Road, near Bethlehem, where the shooting took place. Reports say only one of the seven soldiers returned fire and that no soldier pursued the shooter, who fled the scene on foot.

Following the shooting, Israeli military sources announced that some of the restrictions that had been lifted on Palestinians in the area will be re-imposed. In the words of one local commander, "The lives of the residents of the area will be more difficult."

Israel radio reports Israel is prepared to stop targeted killings of suspected terrorists, if the Palestinian militants agree to and maintain a ceasefire.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Palestinian counterpart, Ahmed Qureia, are preparing to meet for the first time since Mr. Qureia took office, more than a month ago. Israel radio quotes senior government sources as saying the meeting could take place within the next several days. The report quotes an unnamed official in Mr. Sharon's office as sounding a note of optimism about the chances of progress in stopping the violence. The source is quoted as saying Prime Minister Qureia is his own man and no Arafat puppet. Israel refuses to negotiate with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who it regards as being responsible for attacks on Israel.

An Egyptian delegation is due in Gaza for a round of talks with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Palestinian Authority officials, ahead of a meeting in Cairo next week between Mr. Qureia and leaders of all the Palestinian factions.

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