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Palestinians Protest Planned Jerusalem Evictions

Palestinians in the West Bank are protesting what they say are Israel's plans to evict some 1,500 people and destroy more than 80 houses in east Jerusalem.

Owners of the houses in the Silwan district say they have been given eviction notices that say the houses were built without proper permits.

An aide to the Palestinian Authority president, Yasser Abed Rabbo, has called for a one-day strike to protest the decision.

Control of Jerusalem and disputed housing, especially Israeli settlements in the West Bank, are among the key problems hampering Palestinian-Israeli reconciliation efforts.

Palestinian and Israeli officials say U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit Israel and the occupied West Bank next week, her first official visit to the region.

Clinton is scheduled to attend a donor conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on March second on rebuilding the Gaza Strip after the Israeli offensive against Hamas.

U.S. news outlets quoted anonymous administration sources as saying the U.S. plans to offer some $900 million to help rebuild Gaza. According to the reports, the money will be distributed through the United Nations and other agencies and not via the militant group Hamas.

Officials in the region say Secretary Clinton will also travel to Israel and the West Bank. There was no word on whether she would travel to Gaza, whose Hamas leadership Washington considers a terrorist group.

Separately, efforts to find a durable truce in the Gaza conflict hit another obstacle Monday, when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert suspended his lead negotiator.

Officials said that senior defense official Amos Gilad, representing Israel in Egyptian-brokered talks, was relieved after he was quoted telling an Israeli newspaper that Mr. Olmert's inconsistent approach to the talks undermined national security.

In the interview with Maariv, Gilad said the prime minister's last-minute decision to make the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit a precondition to a cease-fire was an insult to Egypt.

Shalit was captured by Palestinian militants in a cross-border raid more than two years ago.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.