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Israeli sources: Targeted killings to stop

Palestinians, Israel discuss leaders' summit

Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, left, and Labor Party leader Shimon Peres attend a meeting Tuesday of the Knesset, Israel's parliament.
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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel has told Palestinian officials it is stopping targeted killings of senior members of Palestinian militant groups, Israeli sources said Wednesday.

Targeted killings have been one of the key Palestinian demands for agreeing to a cease-fire.

Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz, meanwhile, reported that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had reached a provisional agreement with Hamas to participate in a cease-fire.

The newspaper said the agreement came after Abbas agreed to form a "supreme diplomatic authority" to replace the Palestine Liberation Organization as the body responsible for approving any diplomatic agreement with Israel.

This authority would include all the Palestinian organizations, both in the territories and abroad. Groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad are not part of the PLO, and in the past the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had always rejected demands that he form such an umbrella group.

Abbas, Sharon summit discussed

Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erakat and Dov Weisglass, a top adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, met Wednesday and discussed an agenda for a proposed summit between Sharon and Abbas.

Erakat characterized Wednesday's meeting as being constructive and in-depth and said security and political issues also were discussed.

The meeting came after Sharon issued a directive to resume the contacts that were frozen two weeks ago in the wake of a terrorist attack at the Karni Crossing that killed six Israelis on January 13.

Sharon's office said the meeting took place Wednesday morning and lasted about two hours.

The two sides said they had agreed to meet again next week. The Israeli statement said security contacts also would continue.

Sharon's office said "the contacts were resumed in wake of the positive developments in the Palestinian Authority and the effort to prevent terrorism, and that the contacts are conditional on comprehensive Palestinian activity against terrorism, violence and incitement."

Israel has renewed its offer from 2003 to hand over security control of four West Bank cities -- Jericho, Qalqilya, Tulkarem and Ramallah -- to the Palestinians once they have the capability to take full security control, a senior Israeli source said.

That offer was discussed in the meeting among Erakat, Weisglass and Palestinian security adviser Mohammad Dahlan and will be further discussed in a meeting between Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Dahlan next week, the Israeli source said.

Israel offer of restraint

A high-level source in Sharon's office said Israel will stop its actions against Palestinian militants in areas where Palestinian security forces are operating effectively.

"Wherever the area remains quiet there will not be any Israeli action," the source said Wednesday. But where there is a "ticking bomb" not being defused by Palestinian security, Israeli forces will retaliate.

According to the source, Palestinian security forces will be given the first opportunity to deal with terrorist threats.

Last week, Abbas ordered Palestinian security forces to stop attacks on Israeli targets.

Abbas also has ordered an investigation into the Karni Crossing attack. Three Palestinian militant groups -- Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- claimed responsibility.

Hamas' military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, has admitted responsibility for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and attacks against the Israeli military. Israel and the U.S. State Department label Hamas a terrorist organization.

The Popular Resistance Committees is an umbrella organization of militant groups.

Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a military offshoot of the Fatah movement, has claimed responsibility for attacks on Israeli military and civilian targets. The U.S. State Department designates it a terrorist organization. Abbas has assumed the leadership of Fatah, which had been headed by Arafat until his death.

Abbas has been negotiating with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to secure a cease-fire. Both groups this week agreed to a "period of calm" if Israel does the same. There have been no reports of Qassam rockets or mortars being fired into Israel from Gaza since Thursday.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a militant group dedicated to the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel.

Palestinian security forces in southern Gaza

Israeli and Palestinian officials said an agreement has been reached for a redeployment of Palestinian security forces in southern Gaza that will begin Thursday.

The decision came in a meeting between Maj. Gen. Moussa Arafat, Palestinian public security commander, and Brig. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Gaza area commander for the Israel Defense Forces. The two met Tuesday evening at the Erez Crossing.

Palestinian security forces have redeployed in northern Gaza in an attempt to stop attacks on Israelis.

Moussa Arafat said last week the coordination is necessary to prevent the Israeli military from mistaking the Palestinian security forces for terrorists and opening fire on them.

U.S. official to visit region

The U.S. State Department said Monday that one of its top officials will travel to the Middle East this week in an effort to assist the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Assistant Secretary of State William Burns would visit Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and Egypt.

Ereli said Burns' discussions with leaders in the region would center on steps to help the Palestinians beef up security in the territories, and seek ideas on what the United States can do to move the peace process forward.

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