JERUSALEM -- A US envoy has arranged a three-way meeting to try to break the impasse over the terms of an Israeli-Palestinian summit, negotiators said yesterday. The summit would be a first step toward resuming peace talks.
Israeli-Palestinian violence continued as David Satterfield, a senior State Department official, pressed on with his mediation efforts. Palestinians fired mortars at Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip yesterday, and Israeli troops killed a suspected Islamic militant in the West Bank.
Satterfield is urging the two sides to revive talks on the US-backed "road map" peace plan. Israelis and the Palestinians have blamed each other for the deadlock.
Officials from the two sides have met repeatedly in recent weeks to set up a meeting between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel and Ahmed Qurei, the Palestinian prime minister, but no date has been set.
Qurei wants assurances that he will not leave the meeting empty-handed, while Sharon has said he will not accept preconditions for the summit. Qurei was hoping to take a Palestinian agreement for a cease-fire to a summit, but talks among Palestinian factions in Cairo failed to produce an accord.
It wasn't known who would attend the three-way meeting today between US, Israeli, and Palestinian officials.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said the three-way meeting "will discuss ways to implement the road map." Palestinian officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they had been asked to bring proposals about how to move the peace process forward.
Israeli officials also confirmed today's meeting, but declined to provide details.
The road map envisions an independent Palestinian state by 2005.
In the meantime, it requires the Palestinians to crack down on militants and the Israelis to freeze settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. But the plan has been stalled for months.
Sharon and his deputy have hinted recently that if peace efforts fail, Israel could take unilateral action, including the abandonment of settlements in Gaza.
The comments have unnerved Israeli settlers, who say the talk of a withdrawal has invited violence, such as the mortar barrage in Gaza.
The army said 21 shells hit the Gush Katif settlement in 24 hours, causing minor damage. The militants also fired seven antitank missiles, the military said.
Meanwhile, Israeli troops shot and killed an Islamic Jihad fugitive near the West Bank town of Ramallah, the army said. The army said the man had a semiautomatic weapon and rounds of ammunition. Later, troops arrested two other Islamic Jihad militants, the army said. Separately, The Islamic militant group Hamas staged rallies in the West Bank and Gaza to mark its 16th anniversary. Hundreds of marchers dressed up as suicide bombers.
Also yesterday, Israel's military charged 23-year-old Jamal Akkal, a Gaza-born Canadian citizen, with conspiracy to commit murder for planning to carry out attacks against Israeli officials traveling in the United States and bombings against North American Jewish interests, according to authorities. None of the attacks was carried out.
According to the indictment, Akkal was to buy an M-16 assault rifle in Detroit and bomb materials to carry out attacks. He was arrested in Gaza on Nov. 1.