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High Level Israeli-Palestinian Meeting to Take Place Saturday - 2002-07-20

A high level meeting between Israeli and Palestinian representatives, postponed after terrorist attacks this week, is now scheduled to take place Saturday.

The meeting is to focus on security issues and easing the economic hardships Palestinians are suffering from the Israeli military's re-occupation of much of the West Bank.

Participants are to include Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat.

The meeting was planned for Wednesday, but Israel postponed it after eight people were killed in a terrorist ambush near a West Bank Jewish settlement.

Foreign Minister Perez began the first high-level talks in four months with the Palestinians in early July. Not much was accomplished beyond agreement to hold further talks.

Saturday's meeting comes a day after Israel said it was considering expelling to the Gaza Strip, up to 22 male relatives of two Palestinian militants wanted for attacks against Israelis. Israeli forces took the men into custody on Friday after destroying the family homes of the two militants.

The deportation proposal has been criticized by the U.S., the U.N., the Palestinian Authority and human rights groups.

A Palestinian human rights group has asked Israel's Supreme Court to block any attempt to deport the men.

Israel's attorney general, Elyakim Rubinstein, said Friday that the government could deport the men if they could show a direct link to terrorist acts.

Israel has used deportation several times in the past. Most recently 26 militants were sent to the Gaza Strip in May to end a standoff at Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity.

One of the largest deportations was in December of 1992 when the government expelled more than 400 Hamas and Islamic Jihad Palestinian militants to southern Lebanon.