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Israel, Palestinians meet for security talks

A Palestinian woman talks with Palestinian police (only their gun barrels are visible) in front of the ruins of her home in Gaza on Saturday  

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli and Palestinian security officials met at Erez Crossing checkpoint Saturday night in further efforts to reduce the violence in the region.

A statement issued by the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon after the three-hour meeting said that a "good and serious" mood had prevailed, adding that the two sides "agreed upon long-term and ongoing security cooperation," Reuters News Agency reports.

"It was decided to implement a series of steps which would bring about a cessation of the ongoing terror and violence and the continuation of the easing of civil and economic restrictions on the Palestinians," the statement said.

Gaza Security Chief Brig. Gen. Abdel Razek Majaidah described the Israeli response to Palestinian demands as "insufficient, " the Associated Press reports. In contrast to Israeli reports, he said the atmosphere of the meeting was tense.

Earlier, Israel attacked a Palestinian police post in Gaza.

CNN's Mike Hanna reports on attacks that Israel says are retaliation for Palestinian mortar fire

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The Israeli move into Palestinian-controlled territory was the latest in a series of raids into the coastal strip this week. Israel's military says the moves are retaliation for Palestinian mortar attacks.

No injuries were reported in Saturday's incursion, which lasted about 90 minutes. Palestinian officials said Israeli forces used three tanks and two bulldozers to flatten the one-story police post, which Israel said was being used as a base to attack its troops.

"It was a pinpoint operation to stop gunfire that was directed towards our forces from the post as they passed along the fence on the Israeli side," an army spokeswoman said. "After they identified the source of the gunfire, the soldiers went in and destroyed the post."

Reports to Israel's Cabinet count a total of 78 mortar shells fired at Israeli positions in April alone, and Israel holds the Palestinian Authority responsible for those attacks.

Palestinian Authority officials say they have arrested several people for firing mortars from populated areas. But the radical Palestinian group Hamas said Saturday it would continue the mortar strikes.

"We have to convince the Israelis that their existence in our occupied territories is going to cost a lot," Hamas spokesman Mahmoud al-Zahar said. "Without reaching this conclusion, they will not withdraw from Palestinian areas."

Meanwhile, a television reporter was wounded in the leg by gunfire from an Israeli post while filming damage left by Israeli troops in Rafah, in southern Gaza. Israeli troops said they regretted the incident and were investigating.

Israeli security officials were expected to meet Saturday night with their Palestinian counterparts at a border checkpoint at Erez. The security talks were suspended after Israel's move into Gaza on Monday, which the United States criticized as "excessive and disproportionate."

Richard Murphy, a former U.S. State Department official, said Saturday's security talks could pave the way for new talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian children play ball Saturday in front of tents where they live, after their Gaza homes were destroyed by Israeli forces last Wednesday  

"They're both on pretty raw nerve endings on this point. Counseling by the Americans and bringing the two security leaderships together will be a first step," Murphy said.

Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said he had held talks with the Palestinians and hoped that quiet diplomacy behind the scenes would help ease tensions.

He told Israeli radio: "Violence cannot be stopped only by the use of force. It is also necessary to talk. I think we have to try to make a breakthrough. It is possible, even if it is difficult."

But Palestinian sources characterized the talks as part of ongoing security negotiations.

CNN Jerusalem Bureau ChiefMike Hanna contributed to this report.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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