Meeting set; truce elusive

Published May 30, 2007

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will meet to try to halt two weeks of violence that has seen southern Israel battered by rockets and Gaza pummeled by airstrikes.

Abbas hopes to line up Palestinian factions behind a truce before next week's meeting, but the violence showed no sign of letting up. At least six Palestinian militants were killed in fighting Tuesday and early today, and three others died while mishandling explosives, Palestinian officials said.

Abbas and Olmert promised Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in March to meet every two weeks to try to get peace talks moving again. But they have since met only once - on April 15.

In the interim, a November truce between Israel and Gaza militants has collapsed under Palestinian rocket fire and Israeli retaliation, making another meeting all the more urgent.

Olmert's office said he intends to demand that Palestinians halt their rocket fire on southern Israeli towns bordering Gaza.

Hamas, which has partnered with Abbas' Fatah in the Palestinians' ruling coalition government, has been the main force behind the more than 250 rockets that have been fired in the past two weeks.

Abbas is trying to work out a truce agreement with Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups. He said he would take a deal to Israel once he got militants' approval.