Olmert, Abbas Resume Meetings

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CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas met Monday, after a nearly two-month hiatus.

The two discussed concrete steps taken by Israel and the Palestinian Authority to meet requirements of the U.S.-backed road map for peace plan.

Slated for discussion was Israel's removal of 10 checkpoints last week in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for 50 checkpoints to be removed.

According to senior PA official Saeb Erekat, Olmert and Abbas discussed the situation in the Gaza Strip and Egyptian efforts to mediate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the rival Palestinian faction that wrested control of the Strip from the PA's Fatah forces nearly a year ago.

Also on the agenda was the "escape" by 12 members of the Fatah-affiliated al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigades from the Jneid Prison in Nablus (biblical Shechem) on Friday.

According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, a senior PA official urged the gunmen to return to complete an amnesty arrangement with Israel. The men said they'd been beaten by guards at the prison.

Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met with former PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, who heads the negotiating team for the Palestinian Authority.

Shin Bet Head Briefs Cabinet

On Sunday morning, Yuval Diskin, head of the Shin Bet briefed ministers at the weekly Cabinet meeting.

Diskin said that Egyptian efforts to mediate a truce between rival Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, are linked to Hamas' demands to Israel.

"Hamas links the talks with Fatah to actions it wants Israel to take, such as opening the Rafah border crossing [at the Egyptian border] or announcing a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip and West Bank," Diskin said.

"It doesn't appear that Hamas has or will have any real intention of enforcing that truce on other [Palestinian] organizations, which will continue to carry out terror attacks," he said.

Diskin also recommended that Israel complete the separation barrier before removing checkpoints and roadblocks.

"If the fence were completed, including the area around Jerusalem and in all the other areas, I'd recommend removing roadblocks in order to make life easier," he said.

"But without the roadblocks between the various areas of the West Bank, it's easier for terrorists to reach the places where there is no fence," Diskin said.

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz

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