Call to renew Palestinian ceasefire

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority’s Fatah president, has put forward proposals to renew a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip that extend the truce to the West Bank.

Two Israelis were killed in the past two weeks as Hamas resumed daily rocket barrages on southern Israel after a six-month truce. In Gaza, 50 Palestinians were killed in Israeli air strikes on Hamas targets.

The escalation in violence is likely to be the focus of a meeting next week between Mr Abbas and Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister.

Fatah and Hamas representatives are to meet in Cairo to discuss a renewal of the ceasefire. Hamas insists on extending it to the West Bank, where Israeli forces continue to stage nightly raids to arrest suspects.

In a text of proposals leaked in Gaza, Mr Abbas called for an end to Palestinian rocket strikes and a suspension of Israeli air, land and seaborne attacks on Gaza. After a month, the truce would be extended to the West Bank, and Israel would halt assassination and arrest missions in the area.

The proposals called for the removal of Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank and promised the deployment of Palestinian security forces on Gaza’s northern and western borders with Israel. Armed groups in Gaza have cited Israeli operations in the West Bank as a pretext not to abide by a ceasefire.

The raids have been stepped up. The Israeli military announced on Tuesday it had seized a senior Fatah-linked militant in Ramallah.

Meanwhile, Amir Peretz, Mr Olmert’s defence minister, has lost his post as leader of the coalition Labour party.

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