The Israeli-Palestinian security committee continues its meetings in bid to coordinate the intended Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip, Wednesday night, while the Palestinian Authority is preparing to welcome the U.S. secretary of State Condoleezza rice and also prepare for the upcoming summit meeting between the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon next Tuesday.

The meeting took place Wednesday night on Erez checkpoint, the northern entrance of Gaza Strip.  It was attended by Gen. Suleiman Halas and Breg. Aviv Kochavi and other Palestinian and Israeli senior officers.

The Israeli side demanded that the Palestinian resistance stop firing the home-made Qassam shells at the Israeli settlements.

The Palestinians have repeatedly demanded that Israel hands over the crossing with Egypt to the Palestinian Authority and to allow reopening Rafah airport.

Israeli tanks and bulldozers destroyed the runway of the airport in 2002, turning it completely unusable.

On the other hand, Dr. Saeb Ereikat, chief of the Palestinian negotiation team met with Dov Weissglass, Shoron’s senior advisor.  The meeting discussed implementation of Sharm Al-Sheikh understandings reached earlier in February, said Ereikat adding that there might be another meeting ahead of Abbas-Sharon summit.

In preparation for Rice’s visit to the Middle East, the U.S. envoy’s Eliot Abrams, deputy National security advisor and assistant to Secretary of State, David Walsh will meet with Palestinian officials in Ramallah.

On the other hand, a delegation led by Dutch diplomat Ed Kronenburg, a director in the NATO’s Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer’s private office, and will meet Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa and chief negotiator Saeb Erekat during a one-day trip to Ramallah.

The Sec. General has in the past urged the Western alliance to be ready to support any Arab-Israeli peace accord if invited.

‘This is a first step. It is not about any role, active or passive, in the Gaza withdrawal or the wider peace process,’ a NATO official, who requested anonymity, told reporters in a briefing.