Israelis, Palestinians to resume talks Thursday
TABA, Egypt (CNN) -- Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will resume talks in Taba, Egypt, on Thursday, after the funerals for two Israelis killed in the West Bank are completed.
Ahmed Qorei, the head of the Palestinian delegation, confirmed to CNN that he has heard from the Israelli government, and that Israeli negotiators will return to the table.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak gave instructions for negotiations to resume as he met with his top ministers for two hours on Wednesday evening, CNN Correspondent Jerrold Kessel has learned.
The talks were put on hold after Motti Dayan and Etgar Zeituni were killed in the West Bank on Tuesday, militating against reports of "significant progress" toward ending the five-decade conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The two Israelis were eating lunch with an Israeli Arab business associate in the Palestinian-controlled town of Tulkarem when they were seized and shot dead, an Israeli official said. Their bodies were dumped by the side of the road and the Israeli Arab was freed, Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said.
Palestinian police were reportedly holding an unknown number of suspects in the killings, but there was no independent confirmation.
Talks began Sunday
Intensive talks began on Sunday night in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Taba as both sides tried to find a solution before Israelis vote for prime minister on February 6.
One of Israel's senior negotiators, Cabinet Minister Gilead Sher, returned on Wednesday to Eilat, across the Israeli border from Taba, on Wednesday. But the rest of the Israeli negotiating team, including Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, remained in Jerusalem.
The Palestinian negotiators remained in Taba when the Israelis returned to Jerusalem.
More than 400 people -- 343 Palestinians, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society, and 49 Israeli Jews and 13 Israeli Arabs, according to the Israel Defense Forces -- have been killed in a four-month-long spate of violence that began on September 28.
Core issues discussed
CNN has been told there was progress on all four core issues that will form the basis of any projected agreement. CNN has learned talks have addressed West Bank land, the future of Jerusalem, security arrangements and the thorniest -- the disposition of Palestinian refugees.
Regarding the refugee question, the head of the Palestinian delegation told CNN there has been considerable progress not only on the question of how to take historic responsibility for the refugee question, but also practical aspects of resolving it. But he pointed out there were still gaps in the talks, and decisions to be made.
The Israelis had reportedly scaled down a demand that they be allowed to keep 11 percent of the West Bank, lowering their position to 7 percent -- much closer to the 4 percent to 6 percent proposed by former U.S. President Bill Clinton in a series of bridging proposals issued before he left office.
People stand outside the restaraunt in Tel Aviv owned by two Israelis who were killed by Palestinians Tuesday in Tulkarem
The Palestinians reportedly had responded favorably and submitted counter-proposals.
The Israeli government has said it will "lay its hands on the lowly murderers and will punish them with all severity of the law."
The Palestinian Authority issued a statement denouncing the killings, with Qorei adding: "We condemn the killing of all civilians."
But a senior Israeli military official told CNN that the Israel Defense Forces view the killings as further evidence that the Palestinian Authority was doing little to prevent the killing of Israeli civilians.
CNN Bureau Chief Mike Hanna, CNN correspondent Jerrold Kessel and Reuters contributed to this report.
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