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|Wednesday, August 29, 2001, updated at 22:33(GMT+8)|
Peres, Arafat Discuss Ceasefire in Beit JallaIsraeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres phoned Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat twice during the last 24 hours to discuss the way for a ceasefire in the West Bank town of Beit Jalla, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.
During the first phone conversation, Peres asked Arafat to order the Palestinian gunmen to stop firing on Israel's Jewish neighborhood of Gilo, and Arafat promised to do so, the ministry said.
In another phone conversation between the two, Arafat asked Israel to pull out its troops from Beit Jalla immediately, so that he can order a ceasefire in that town.
The phone conversations were positive developments that could lead to the end of violent conflicts in the south of Jerusalem, said the ministry, adding that Peres's phone conversation with Arafat was approved by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Covered by helicopter gunships, Israeli tanks and armoured personal carriers roared out of darkness early Tuesday morning and entered into Beit Jalla, marking the longest and one of the deepest military incursions into the Palestinian-controlled areas since the outbreak of the conflict between the two sides 11 months ago.
During the incursion, dubbed "Operation Safe Home," the Israel Defense Force (IDF) seized at least five buildings, including the Lutheran Church, which houses 50 children aged four to 18, to serve as military outposts to counter the attacks from the Palestinian side.
Meanwhile, Israeli tanks moved into positions and got ready to hit any Palestinian targets from where the firing starts.
Beit Jalla is a mostly Christian Palestinian town located just south of Jerusalem, and Israel vowed Tuesday that the IDF will remain in the town until "all the sources of gunfire located and silenced."
Gilo, just opposite Beit Jalla, is a Jewish settlement built on the occupied land seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War. Israel's annexation of Gilo has never been recognized internationally and Israel now considers the neighborhood as an integral part of Jerusalem.
Peres, according to the Foreign Ministry, objected to the incursion into Beit Jalla, arguing that it should have been delayed until after he meets with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, in the hope that Arafat would again to give the order to stop the fire.
Foreign Ministry officials also said that Peres has not given up his hope to arrange a ceasefire in Beit Jalla with Arafat.
They said Peres phoned on Tuesday Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and foreign ministers of five countries, including Jordan and France, asking them to help ensure that such a meeting would not end in failure.
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