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Quartet resolute on Mideast peace

Israelis kill top Hamas member in West Bank

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell:
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell: "We have to keep moving forward."

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AMMAN, Jordan (CNN) -- Representatives of the so-called Mideast Quartet presented a united front Sunday in support of the "road map" for Middle East peace, despite recent violence in the region.

"We have to keep moving forward," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters after meeting with leaders from the United Nations, the European Union and Russia as a World Economic Forum was getting under way on the shores of the Dead Sea. "I regret that we continue to find ourselves trapped in this action and counter-action."

The Mideast Quartet is expected to negotiate a transfer of security power over Gaza and Bethlehem from Israel to the Palestinian Authority.

"The international community is united in working towards peace," said Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose country holds the European Union's rotating presidency. "We are saying that we are not going to allow this process to be undermined, and that those who do are trying to undermine the political will of the international community."

Powell said he was "anxious" for the Palestinian Authority to take control of Gaza and for Israel to remove its forces.

The news conference came hours after Israeli forces shot and killed two Palestinians -- including Abdullah Kawasme, a Hamas leader who was on Israel's most-wanted list.

Ra'anan Gissin, a senior aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said Israeli soldiers shot and killed Kawasme because he tried to escape arrest in the West Bank town of Hebron.

"We didn't try to kill him. We tried to make an arrest," Gissin said.

Gaza explosion in dispute

After the meeting, several Palestinians were killed in an explosion in Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza.

The cause of the explosion was unclear.

Palestinian sources said four Palestinians died when they were fired on by an Israeli tank in an orange grove. Three of the dead were identified as members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

An Israeli military source disputed the claim, saying that an investigation showed there was no IDF fire in the area at the time.

Israeli security sources said the Palestinians were trying to plant an explosive device to be detonated against IDF forces in the area when it blew up prematurely, killing them. The sources said they knew of three, not four, dead.

The brigades is a military offshoot of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement that has attacked military targets and civilians in Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza. The U.S. State Department considers it a foreign terrorist organization.

According to Israeli military sources, Israeli forces shot and killed a suspected Palestinian militant overnight Saturday in Gaza after he was said to have been moving suspiciously near the settlement of Morag.

Israel: Kawasme involved in 50 deaths

Gissin said Kawasme was directly responsible for the deaths of 25 Israelis and indirectly responsible for another 25. He said Kawasme was behind the suicide bombing on a bus in central Jerusalem on June 11 that killed 17 Israelis and wounded 70 others.

The military wing of Hamas, Izzedine al Qassam, claimed responsibility for the bus attack, as it has for numerous terrorists attacks against Israeli civilians and the military. The U.S. State Department labels Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist group, a terrorist organization.

Killing is justified "when we have to deal with ticking time bombs or those who dispatch ticking bombs," Gissin said. Had Kawasme not been dealt with, "we would have had more incidents," he said.

Palestinian sources said the killing was part of Israel's assassination policy on Palestinian militants.

Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath called the attack "horrible."

"It reminds people of everything that we hated about occupation," Shaath said. "This is the time to stop that. This is the time to stop all assassinations and all violence and all terror from all sides."

Top Hamas official Abdel Aziz Rantissi -- who survived an assassination attempt by Israeli forces two weeks ago -- said Kawasme's death would be avenged.

Rantissi also said Hamas is still considering a cease-fire proposal from Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, popularly known as Abu Mazen.

"Up 'till now we haven't [made] a decision, but we said that we are going to answer Abu Mazen in the coming few days," Rantissi said.

"We will continue in dialogue with Palestinians as if there is no Israeli terror, and we will continue resisting terror as if there is no dialogue with the Palestinians."

During a Cabinet meeting Sunday morning, Sharon called the Hebron action a strategic victory for Israeli forces in curbing actions of Palestinian terrorists, and said Israel would not stop such operations.

CNN correspondent Jerrold Kessel contributed to this report.


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