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Gaza Violence Prompts Israel  to Cancel Security Talks - 2002-08-28

Israel has called off security talks with the Palestinians scheduled for Wednesday, citing continuing violence in the Gaza Strip. Earlier, Israeli troops raided a village in the territory in an attempt to foil an arms-smuggling operation.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer announced Wednesday he had called off his meeting with Palestinian Interior Minister Abdel Rzek Yehiyeh.

In his statement, Mr. Ben-Eliezer specifically referred to a mortar attack Tuesday against a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip and other violent incidents in the territory.

The two men had planned to discuss further implementation of a phased withdrawal from Palestinian self-rule areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Under the plan, Israeli soldiers are to pull out of areas that are quiet and to restore security control to the Palestinian Authority.

Israeli soldiers last week withdrew from Bethlehem in the West Bank. The next pullbacks were to have taken place in Hebron, also in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

But the plans appear to be on hold because of continuing Israeli concerns that Palestinian militant groups are planning to carry out more attacks.

In a pre-drawn raid Wednesday, Israeli tanks, backed by helicopters and naval boats moved into the Palestinian self-rule area of Sheikh Ajli on the coast, south of Gaza City.

The operation began after barrels were spotted floating in the sea, arousing suspicion that arms were being smuggled.