Yehiyeh Meets Jihad, Hamas in Gaza

Palestinian Interior Minister Abel Razak Yehiyeh failed on Thursday to convince militant and national factions to back an end to attacks against Israelis and accept Israel's plan to ease its military clampdown in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The talks in Gaza between Yehiyeh and 13 factions, including militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, were important because consensus is essential to the future success of the plan, seen as a test for a full truce.

Yehiyeh entered through a back door to avoid reporters at the building where he held his first talks with the factions since Palestinian and Israeli officials agreed on the plan on Sunday. But a member of one of the factions said they were not convinced that Israel was doing its part in ending its own killings of militants and incursions into Palestinian lands.

"Yehiyeh asked for a suspension of some attacks in order to allow for the understanding to succeed," he told Reuters. "The continuation by Israel to launch incursions and carry out assassinations against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank cast a shadow over the meeting and the minister failed to convince us of the plan, mainly because of Israeli practices."

Hamas and Islamic Jihad had rejected the "Gaza-Bethlehem First" plan before and have vowed to continue attacks as part of what they call resisting the occupation. Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas member, said Yehiyeh told the meeting that he had not agreed anything in writing with Israel. Militant groups and factions had feared there was a written commitment for the Palestinian Authority to arrest radicals.

"Yehiyeh told us about his theory regarding the resistance and the uprising. He sees that the forms of the resistance do not serve the Palestinian cause. No one attending agreed with him."

Under the plan, Israel would ease its military clampdown in the West Bank city of Bethlehem and Gaza Strip in return for a deployment of Palestinian security forces to ensure calm. Israel pulled its patrols out of Bethlehem on Tuesday, handing over to Palestinian security men, but kept troops deployed around the city in a sign of the deal's fragility.

Palestinian woman killed in blastA 55-year-old Palestinian woman was killed and her son was seriously wounded Thursday, when a bomb exploded at the chicken farm where they were working, Palestinian security officials said.

The farm, located in the village of Saida in the northern West Bank, belonged to an Islamic Jihad fugitive, Ahmed Yassin, 30, the officials said. The fugitive is not related to the Hamas leader by the same name.

According to Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, the woman was killed when the device, which she was carrying about her person, exploded. Previously, the IDF had said that the bomb was left in a field by members of the Islamic Jihad, while representatives of that group said that the bomb was planted by the IDF.

The Defense Minister added that the IDF had arrested two Hamas members Wednesday who had been on their way to carry out a suicide attack in Israel. He said that their operator had also been captured. The three were transferred to the Shin Bet security service for questioning.

Overnight Wednesday, IDF troops arrested the leader of Hamas in the West Bank town of Qalqilyah, Mohammed Wajeh Quoa, Palestinian sources said.

Quoa, 41, had been arrested repeatedly by Israel in the past and in 1992 was deported to south Lebanon for one year, along with 400 other Islamic militant activists. Two Palestinians on Israel's wanted list were also arrested in the Bethlehem area, Army Radio reported.