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U.S. demands Israeli withdrawal

By Elise Labott
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration Monday criticized the recent killing of Palestinian civilians by Israeli gunfire and demanded Israel immediately withdraw its forces from all Palestinian-controlled territory.

"Israeli incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas have contributed to a significant escalation in tension and violence," said deputy State Department spokesman Philip Reeker.

"Israeli defense forces should be withdrawn immediately from all Palestinian-controlled areas and no further such incursions should be made."

Israeli forces deployed in and around six Palestinian controlled cities in the West Bank after last week's assassination of Israeli cabinet minister Rechavam Zeevi by the extremist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The demand followed a call by Secretary of State Colin Powell to Ariel Sharon Sunday in which Powell said Sharon assured him he did not intend to remain in the territory.

Powell also spoke with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat before leaving the Asia Pacific Economic Conference summit in Shanghai.

Reeker's comments followed reports of several Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli gunfire over the weekend.

"We deeply regret and deplore Israeli Defense Force actions that have killed numerous Palestinian civilians over the weekend," Reeker said.

"The deaths of those innocent civilians under the circumstances reported in recent days are unacceptable. And we call upon Israel to ensure that its armed forces exercise greater discipline and restraint and consider where their actions are leading."

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer met with Israeli Foreign Ministry officials Monday and Ron Schlicher, the U.S. consul general in Jerusalem, met with Arafat about the deteriorating situation.

"Failure on the part of the Palestinian Authority to confront terror in a decisive manner is absolutely unacceptable," Reeker said "Retaliatory actions by Israel cannot produce lasting security, which is the goal we so long advocated."


• Israeli Government
• Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
• Israel Defense Forces
• Palestinian Authority
• Palestine Red Crescent Society
• United Nations

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