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Palestinian Militant Dies in Gun Battle with Israeli Soldiers - 2003-06-15


Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian militant in a gun battle in the Gaza Strip early Sunday. The incident occurred only hours after senior Israeli and Palestinian officials met to try to salvage the latest Middle East peace plan.

Just hours after a meeting between Palestinian and Israeli security officials, Israeli troops shot and killed a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant faction associated with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. Witnesses said four Palestinians were injured in the shooting.

The meeting between Israeli and Palestinian security officials took place at the home of U.S. Ambassador Dan Kurtzer. They discussed a proposal for a withdrawal of Israeli troops from parts of Gaza in exchange for a Palestinian crackdown on militant activity.

The meeting came just ahead of the arrival in the region of John Wolf, President Bush's special Middle East envoy. Mr. Wolf's delegation had originally planned to come monitor implementation of confidence building measures laid out in the so-called road map peace plan. His mission now is that of a trouble shooter trying to curb the violence.

That job has been complicated by a week of incidents that has left more than 60 people dead on both sides.

The meeting late Saturday between Israeli and Palestinian security officials focuses on the Palestinian pledge to take over security in the Gaza Strip once Israeli forces pull back.

Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim told Israeli TV that the offer to pull back in parts of Gaza is still on the table but Israel radio quoted other Israeli security officials as saying the troops would "not move a centimeter" unless the Palestinians come up with a plan for cracking down on militants.

The two sides were represented by Palestinian Security Minister Mohammed Dahlan, and the Israeli chief of military operations in the Palestinian territories General Amos Gilad.

Officials of the Palestine Liberation Organization are to meet Sunday in the West Bank town of Ramallah to discuss and possibly ratify any new security plan. Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is to meet in Gaza with leaders of militant groups to try to persuade them to stop anti-Israeli attacks.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas, the main group behind suicide bombings and other attacks against Israelis, flatly rejected any deal the Palestinian Authority and Israeli government come up with.