Israel, PA Renew Talks on Convoys

Decision to renew talks came after American officials expressed dismay that convoys had not begun Thursday, as promised.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority renewed negotiations about the disputed convoys between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank over the weekend, in the hopes of reaching an agreement that would allow them to start operating this week.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz announced Thursday that Israel would not allow the convoys to operate "at this time," but that the decision would be reconsidered during the week.

The decision to renew talks came after American officials expressed dismay that the convoys had not begun operation on Thursday, as Israel had promised.

Following Mofaz's statements, State Department officials released a statement saying that the U.S. was holding senior-level talks in order to expedite an agreement. An official statement from Washington also said that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who signed the agreement on the Gaza Strip crossings during her visit five weeks ago, is following the situation closely.

General Yosef Mishlev, coordinator of government activities in the territories, gave Palestinian Planning Minister Ghassan al-Khatib an Israeli proposal regarding the convoys on Friday.

The proposal calls for an agreement that would be implemented in stages. In the first stage, a five-bus convoy would travel daily between the Gaza Strip and the southern West Bank. The passengers would consist of Gaza residents only, who would not be permitted to stay in the West Bank for more than 10 days.

Students from Gaza traveling to the West Bank for their studies would need to travel home every 10 days to renew their travel permit.

Any Gazans looking to travel to the northern West Bank must pass through numerous Israel Defense Forces checkpoints along West Bank roads.