Israelis, Palestinians Blame Each other for Violating Cease-Fire

Palestinian gunmen take up positions during an Israeli army incursion in the West Bank city of Nablus
Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired dozens of mortar and rockets at Israeli settlements in Gaza, after Israeli soldiers shot dead three Palestinian teenagers. According to Israeli media, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz called President Abbas and warned him that the attacks must stop or the cease-fire could collapse.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is in Texas for talks with President Bush. He says he will discuss, what he termed, Palestinian cease-fire violations with Mr. Bush. But Palestinian officials say it is the Israelis who are violating the truce.

Mr. Sharon called the attacks a flagrant violation of the cease-fire understanding that he and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed upon at their February summit.

Israeli officials have recently said they believe Mr. Abbas has not done enough to rein in the militants. They insist he has a large enough police force and that he should use it against militant groups. The statements indicate a growing impatience with Mr. Abbas' softer approach, through which he has tried to coax the militants into adhering to a cease-fire with the hope of eventually bringing them into the political fold.

Palestinian officials see it differently. The senior security chief in Gaza said his forces are doing their duty every day and he accused Mr. Sharon of stepping up the pressure before his meeting with President Bush.

Palestinian government spokesman Samir Hellale said the rocket attacks are a temporary aberration.

He said the Palestinians remain committed to the cease-fire. He said the attacks have been in response to Israeli actions and are not Palestinian policy.

Militants say the rocket attacks were in retaliation for the killing Saturday of the three Palestinian youths near the border fence between Gaza and Egypt. The Israelis say the boys were on a weapons smuggling mission. Palestinians say they were playing football.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia says he hopes President Bush will use the meeting with Mr. Sharon to insist that Israel freeze its settlement expansion in the West Bank, stop building its controversial security barrier and end, what he called, its attempt to annex East Jerusalem.

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