Hundreds of supporters of the Islamic group Hamas battled with Palestinian police in the Gaza Strip, as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat continued to arrest members of militant groups. The clashes come as renewed diplomatic efforts are being made to arrange a cease-fire to end more than 14 months of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
In Gaza City, Palestinian riot police surrounded the home of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, to put him under house arrest. A large number of Hamas supporters clashed with police and one demonstrator was killed.
Hamas has been responsible for a series of deadly suicide bombings, including recent attacks that killed 25 people. Since the bombings, Yasser Arafat has been under intense international pressure to arrest militants, or face punishing attacks from the Israeli military.
In a separate incident Thursday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian the army says was firing mortars at Jewish settlements in Gaza. Palestinians say the dead man was a policeman.
Amid the continuing violence, there was renewed diplomatic activity. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher met with top Israeli and Palestinian officials. Mr. Maher said his talks with the Israelis were candid, but disagreements about the situation remain. "I cannot say that we see eye-to-eye, because this would not be true. There are still points of differences," he said. "But we agreed on the goal, which is to ensure a Palestinian state living beside an Israeli state in security and cooperation. This is our goal. This is what we want to work for."
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said if Mr. Arafat cracks down on militant groups armed with illegal weapons, he will gain international support and serve his own people. "If the Palestinians will be divided by armed groups, they will hardly be able to reach their own destinies," said Mr. Peres. "You cannot have a country and ... an authority that has more than one authorized armed force, whether army or police. I am sure that, if Chairman Arafat will [crack down on the armed groups], he will serve his political [interests], and, also, we shall get rid of violence."
US envoy Anthony Zinni continued his meetings with both sides in an effort to forge an agreement on a cease-fire. The retired Marine Corps general arrived in the region last week amid an upsurge in the bloodshed.