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Israel, Palestinians Hold Talks to End Six Days of Bloodshed - 2004-10-05

Israel and the Palestinian Authority have begun negotiations to end Israel's week-long military operations in the Gaza Strip. The news comes following another Israeli strike, overnight Monday, that killed one Palestinian militant and wounded two others.

Israeli military sources say Israel and the Palestinian Authority began talks, Monday, through an unidentified third party. Reports say Israel told the Palestinians it would withdraw its forces from Gaza, if the Palestinians promise to end rocket attacks on Israeli targets.

The Palestinian Authority has not responded to the Israeli offer.

News of the talks came after another night of violence. Palestinian witnesses say one militant was killed and two others were wounded in the attack by an Israeli aircraft in northern Gaza.

Palestinian witnesses identify the victims as members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades group.

The attack came on the sixth day of Israel's bloodiest raid in the coastal Gaza Strip in four years of conflict. More than 60 Palestinians and at least five Israelis have been killed since Israel moved into Gaza last week, after rockets fired by Palestinian militants killed two Israeli children.

Among the ten Palestinians killed during an Israeli raid, earlier Monday, were a four-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl.

Monday night, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat vowed the Palestinian fighters in Gaza would never surrender in their battle against Israeli troops. But he also called on the militants not to give Israel an excuse to continue its attacks.

Meanwhile, in West Bank violence, Israeli undercover agents killed two Palestinian security officers in a raid in Ramallah. Israeli media says one of the Israelis, a border policeman, was also killed, possibly by misdirected Israeli fire. The two Palestinians killed in the shootout were members of Force 17, Yasser Arafat's own security guard. Israel says Force 17 is involved in attacks against Israelis.

On Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia condemned what he called international indifference to Palestinian suffering, in the face of the current Israeli offensive. He decried what he called the "massive destruction" taking place in Gaza. He called the Israeli raids an "ugly crime".

Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel will expand what he termed the "buffer zone" in the northern Gaza Strip to protect Israeli towns from rocket attacks.

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged Israel to halt its operations in Gaza and urged Palestinian leaders to help curtail rocket attacks on Israelis. He said both sides to this conflict have what he calls "a legal obligation to protect all civilians."