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|Wednesday, August 29, 2001, updated at 08:36(GMT+8)|
Israeli Troops to Stay in West Bank Village Until Fire CessationIsraeli Defense Minister Binjamin Ben-Eliezer said Tuesday evening that the Israeli troops will remain in the West Bank village of Beit Jala until Palestinians stop shooting from there at the opposite Jewish neighborhood of Gilo.
Ben-Eliezer made the announcement after a meeting in his Tel Aviv office with army Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz, head of General Security Service (or Shin Bet) Avi Dichter and senior defense officials to discuss the situation.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is reportedly being in contact with the Palestinians, both directly and indirectly via the U.S. ambassador, as well as with Egyptian and Jordanian representatives, in an attempt to get a guarantee from Palestinian National Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to maintain calm in the area of Gilo and Beit Jalla.
Peres is supposed to speak Tuesday night with Arafat. Earlier in the day Peres made a phone conversation with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and also with foreign ministers of Jordan, Russia, France, Germany and Belgium. He has discussed the Mideast situation with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan over a phone call.
Peres said that the Israeli army would withdraw from Beit Jalla if the Palestinians stop shooting on Gilo, which was built on land captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war and considered an illegal settlement by the Palestinians.
He asked the leaders to use their influence to request from Arafat an order to stop the shooting.
Israeli troops, which entered Beit Jalla early Tuesday morning in the wake of renewed Palestinian shooting on Gilo, are still holding positions there.
The Palestinians shooting came after Israeli army assassinated the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader Abu Ali Mustafa in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Monday. The Palestinians have vowed to revenge the killing.
Israeli army commander for the West Bank Brigadier General Gershon Yitzhak said that the operation in Beit Jalla was "ongoing" and that he could not commit to a date of withdrawal.
Despite the military operation, there were still sporadic shots on Gilo Tuesday evening.
Palestinians also reportedly fired a mortar that landed in Gilo, causing minor damage to a public building. It is likely that the mortar round was fired from the West Bank town of Bethlehem. Palestinians last fired mortars on Gilo in July.
The United States Tuesday urged Israel to withdraw from Beit Jalla, saying the army incursion would "make matters worse." It also called on the Palestinians to stop shooting on Gilo and elsewhere.
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