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Palestinian Factions Meet, Seek Unity - 2002-08-12

Leading Palestinian factions have been meeting in Gaza City to try to forge a unified leadership and position on political reforms and the ongoing uprising against Israel.

The closed-door meeting Monday was called to evaluate the almost two-year-old Palestinian uprising, known as the Intifada, and come up with a common position on where to take it in the future.

All leading factions are represented, including the militant Islamic group Hamas, which was behind the most recent suicide and bomb attacks against Israeli targets.

The factions were to consider a proposal for an end to attacks inside Israel while at the same time continuing to support the Intifada. If the plan is approved, future attacks would focus on Israeli military and security targets and Jewish settlements in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

There is also discussion of returning to the ways of fighting that were used in the first Intifada of the late 1980s when Palestinian youths and militants used stones and not guns against Israeli troops.

Factions belonging to Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are reported to have agreed to the plan. But Hamas is still studying the proposals and promised an answer within the next few days.

The Gaza meeting also was to establish a unified leadership council to help reform and democratize Palestinian institutions.

Mr. Arafat's Palestinian Authority has come under increasing international pressure to institute reforms to include a more unified security service and to introduce overall greater transparency and end to widespread corruption.

While Palestinian representatives met behind closed doors, the violence continued. Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian militant near the West Bank town of Jenin. Ghasal Frihat belonged to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is linked to Mr. Arafat's Fatah movement. An Israeli army spokesman is quoted as saying Mr. Frihat was shot while trying to escape. However, the militant's family says soldiers burst into the house, arrested Mr. Frihat, took him outside and then shot him a few minutes later.