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Abbas, Haneya Agree to Continue Dialogue
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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haneya agreed to continue national dialogue based on a prisoners' document during a meeting Sunday night.

It was the second meeting between the two men in the last 24 hours.

After the meeting, Interior Minister Said Siam told reporters that it was agreed that Abbas will meet Monday night in Gaza with leaders of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad (Holy War) as well as representatives of a follow-up committee which is in charge of the national dialogue.

Siam said that Abbas would brief leaders of the factions on what has been agreed upon based on the document.

Asked about if the two sides agreed on the issue of holding a referendum on the document, Siam said, "We did not talk about the question of referendum, because we declared our position in advance."

"What we talked about is continuation of dialogue, because the Palestinian political arena is wide enough for dialogue and for reaching consensus," he said.

On Saturday, Abbas issued a presidential decree to hold a referendum on the document on July 26, while leaving the door open for national dialogue.

The ruling but radical Hamas movement rejected the idea about holding referendum on the document which implicitly recognizes Israel.

Meanwhile, an Israeli air strike killed two Palestinian militants from Hamas in the Gaza Strip, after a rocket fired by members of the Islamist group seriously wounded an Israeli civilian, medics said.

The Israeli army confirmed the strike, saying a helicopter fired a missile shortly after the men launched a rocket from northern Gaza. They were the first Hamas fighters killed by Israel since November. Three militants were also wounded.

The strike came hours after an Israeli man was wounded when a makeshift Hamas rocket landed near a school in the Israeli town of Sderot, near the Gaza border. A hospital official said the man was in serious condition.

Palestinian militants frequently fire rockets into Israel but seldom cause anything but light damage or injuries. The last time an Israeli was killed by a rocket strike was last July.

The killing of the Hamas militants was also the first by Israel since the ruling Islamist group ended a 16-month truce on Friday after seven Palestinians, including three children, were killed on a Gaza beach on a day of Israeli shelling.

Israel has said the killings were a mistake, although it has not admitted responsibility. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has expressed his condolences and promised an investigation.

Civilian deaths spark criticism

Israel faced international condemnation on Saturday over the death of seven Palestinians.

In Amman, where Jordan's King Abdullah II met this week with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert about the Middle East peace process, the Jordanian Government called Friday's killings by Israeli artillery fire a "crime".

"The Israeli escalation against the Palestinians does not help in creating climates of trust between the two sides and will increase tensions," the official Petra news agency quoted government spokesman Nasser Jawdeh as saying.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has declared three days of mourning for the victims, five of whom were members of a single family killed as they were enjoying a day on the beach during the Muslim day of rest.

The United States, Israel's staunchest ally, voiced "its regret for the killing and wounding of innocent Palestinians," while urging both sides to show restraint "and avoid all actions that could exacerbate tensions further," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said late on Friday.

The French Government called the Israeli bombardments of Gaza a "disproportionate" use of force, a view shared by Moscow.

"What happened was unacceptable," a Russian foreign ministry statement said.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora warned that verbal condemnation was not sufficient "in the face of continuing Israeli barbarism."

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan also endorsed the need for an investigation, saying he was "deeply disturbed" by the killings, according to his spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Friday.

(Xinhua News Agency, China Daily June 12, 2006)


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