Source: Israelis, Palestinians hold 'positive' meeting
White House official: 'There need to be results'
GAZA CITY (CNN) -- After a week of deadly assaults in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials held high-level security meetings Saturday night in an attempt to stanch the bloodshed, Palestinian sources told CNN.
One Palestinian source described the three-hour meeting as "positive." No decisions were made, the source said, but "momentum is building," and the sides could hold another meeting in the next few days, as soon as Sunday.
At the meeting were Israeli Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, the coordinator for Israeli activities in the territories, and Palestinian security chief Mohammed Dahlan.
Dahlan helped organize the first Palestinian intifada, from 1987-1994. He later participated in peace talks at Wye River in 1999 and Camp David in 2000.
Dahlan came in with specific demands, primarily Israeli withdrawal from all of Gaza, the source said. He also requested freedom of movement in Gaza for Palestinians, along with the removal of Israeli checkpoints, an end to the "assassinations" of Palestinians and an end to the demolition of Palestinian houses, the source said.
"The most effective means of delivering Israelis their security is by ending the occupation and delivering Palestinians their freedom," Dahlan told Gilad, according to a Palestinian news release issued after the meeting.
The source said the Palestinian side also discussed certain confidence-building measures, such as the release of Palestinian prisoners and the ability to rebuild the Gaza airport.
The Palestinians at the meeting also discussed their security taking control of one or two towns in the West Bank, but the source would not say which.
The Israelis wanted to take a look at the Palestinians' plan and would hold another meeting in the near future to discuss it, the source said.
In Washington, a senior administration official said the White House was taking a cautiously optimistic view of the meetings. He said that though the meetings were "positive, ultimately there need to be results."
Palestinian security officials indicated Friday that they are prepared to assume responsibility for security.
"We are ready to take over the areas from which the Israelis will withdraw," Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Amr said.
Since Sunday, at least 53 people have been killed in the region -- including Israeli military personnel, Palestinian militants and civilians on both sides.
A Palestinian source said Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat -- whom the United States and Israel denounced and snubbed from the U.S.-led "road map" to peace talks -- has been involved in handling security matters because Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is in Jordan undergoing medical treatment.
It is not clear why Abbas is being treated. The United States and Israel favor and trust Abbas -- but not Arafat -- as a peace partner.
To provide security, the Palestinians want Israel to withdraw its forces from parts of Gaza to allow greater freedom of movement. They also want Israel to suspend -- at least temporarily -- targeted assassinations of Hamas militants, Palestinian sources said.
Israeli media are reporting that Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told Dahlan on Friday that Israel is ready to remove troops and give Palestinians security control of Gaza. Mofaz said the move would be predicated on Dahlan ending Qassam rocket attacks and the Hamas terror attacks, according to media reports.
Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization, has been labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. The group's military wing has acknowledged terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and military personnel.
The Qassam is a homemade rocket with a range of up to five miles [eight kilometers] that has been used against Israel.
The White House official who spoke about the meeting declined to comment on the idea of Israel's withdrawal from part of Gaza, leaving the Palestinian Authority's security forces to take over.
A senior Israeli official said "there are some signs things are starting to move" in the discussions about the Palestinian Authority taking control of some security issues.
The Israeli official said Israel's repeated military strikes against Hamas targets in Gaza, and the United States and Egypt placing "huge pressure" on the Palestinians, was generating positive changes.
A U.S. team led by Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf, the Bush administration's new point man in the Middle East, planned to meet Sunday with Israeli and Palestinian officials in the hopes of moving both sides forward on the road map for Middle East peace. Israel and the Palestinian Authority endorsed the peace plan created by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
Initial steps in the road map require Israel's dismantling of unauthorized settlement outposts and Palestinian efforts to crack down on terrorism.
New violence reported
Scattered violence continued throughout the region over the weekend.
The Israel Defense Forces launched an operation early Sunday in Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza, searching for Qassam rocket launching sites, Israeli military sources said.
A firefight erupted during the search, the sources said. No IDF soldiers were hurt, but the Associated Press showed pictures of a dead Palestinian and several wounded being brought to a hospital in Beit Hanoun.
Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops on the West Bank on Saturday left a 19-year-old Palestinian man dead near the Askar refugee camp, near Nablus, the Palestine Red Crescent said. Israel media reported that the man had been throwing stones at a tank, and said three other teens were hurt.
Two Israeli Apache helicopters fired at least one missile at a target in Gaza late Friday, destroying a Hamas weapons warehouse, the Israel Defense Forces and Palestinian sources said. No one was killed or injured, Palestinian hospital sources said.(Full story)
Also on Friday, Palestinian sources said Hamas met with Palestinian Authority officials, including Arafat, and signaled it would stop attacking Israelis if Israel stopped targeting and killing Hamas members.
The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz is reporting, however, that senior Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantissi told a news agency Friday that "the word cease-fire is not part of our vocabulary." Rantissi was wounded Tuesday when Israel targeted him in a missile attack.
-- CNN correspondents Kelly Wallace and Matthew Chance, and producer Talal Abu Rahma, contributed to this report.