Low-key Israeli-Palestinian contacts resume

Behind-scenes meetings between senior leaders

November 04, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

JERUSALEM - More than two months after Israel broke off contacts with the Palestinians, senior leaders from the two sides have quietly resumed behind-the-scenes discussions in an effort to revive the stalled Middle East peace plan.

The renewed talks come as violence persists.

Acting on a tip, Israeli troops raided Azun, a West Bank village near the boundary with Israel, and a 16-year-old Palestinian bomber, Sabih Abu Saud, blew himself up as soldiers were closing in, the military said. One soldier was slightly wounded.

Palestinians traditionally praise family members who carry out attacks against Israel. But the bomber's father, Kamal Abu Saud, was critical of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which recruited the youth for the bombing.

"He was just a little boy, and those who sent him should have left him alone," Saud was quoted as saying in a report by the Associated Press.

The youth was believed to be the youngest of the more than 100 Palestinian suicide bombers who have died during the past three years of Mideast violence.

In another case, a Palestinian, Tariq Hussein, 25, who was wanted in the shooting death of a 7-year-old Israeli girl, turned himself in to Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint in Qalqiliya, on the West Bank, the military said.

It was not immediately clear why Hussein turned himself in - an extremely rare occurrence. But the military had recently searched his home, and family members might have pressured him.

With regard to peace talks, Shaul Mofaz, the Israeli defense minister, acknowledged that he had been meeting with Palestinians, but declined to name them. Palestinian and Israeli officials identified Mofaz's negotiating counterpart as Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian finance minister.

Mofaz added that if the Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, established a long-term government, the contacts could be expanded.

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