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Israel halts talks with Palestinians on bus convoys
Updated: 2005-12-08 17:03

Israel has decided to suspend talks with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) on operating bus convoys between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank despite a November agreement on Gaza border crossings and convoys, local newspaper Ha'aretz reported on Thursday.

Under the brokerage of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Israel and the Palestinians clinched an agreement on November 15, according to which bus convoys were scheduled to start operating next Thursday and truck convoys were to begin in mid-January.

Israeli Prime Minister's Office said it had notified the United States of its decision to suspend talks shortly after senior ministers approved the move, which had been recommended by security officials in the wake of Monday's Palestinian suicide attack in the northern Israeli city of Netanya, according to the report.

Five Israelis were killed and 50 others were wounded in the suicide bombing, which prompted Israel to step up security operations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Israeli cabinet ministers said convoy talks would be renewed only after the PNA fulfilled its obligation to act against Palestinian militants.

A security official on Wednesday linked the suspension of the convoy talks to a disagreement over the supervision of the Rafah crossing on the Gaza-Egypt border, which was re-opened in late November in accordance with the border crossing deal.

Israel says the Palestinians are not monitoring the Rafah crossing effectively, which enables hostile elements to enter Gaza.

Israeli officials said as long as Israel is unable to monitor entry into the Gaza Strip, it cannot allow Palestinians to go through Israel to travel between Gaza and the West Bank.

Israeli and Palestinian security officers monitor the movement of people and goods via Rafah through cameras installed at the crossing in a control room several kilometers away from the crossing.

Meanwhile, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch is due to arrive in Israel and the Palestinian territories on Thursday to discuss issues including the convoys, the Karni crossing on the eastern Gaza border and the Gaza airport.

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