Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is ‘furious and disappointed’ afterÃ‚Â a summit meeting in which Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon rejected Palestinian demands for an easing of restrictions in the occupied territories, according to a Wednesday report on Israeli Army radio.
The report on Abbas’ reaction to the Tuesday afternoon meeting was based on comments by unnamed Palestinian officials present at the session. One of them was quoted as sayingÃ‚Â ‘We heard a long lecture from Sharon on fighting terrorism and comments preaching morality, but nothing was achieved.’
Palestinian AuthorityÃ‚Â cabinet minister Saeb Erekat Wednesday acknowledged that the meeting was ‘difficult, the meeting was candid, and it sometimes got angry.’
‘It was a very difficult day … between the two of them,’ he said.
Abbas and Sharon met in the latter’s official residence in West Jerusalem Tuesday afternoon amidstÃ‚Â rising tension in the occupied Palestinian terretories. It was their first working meeting since the Sharm el-Sheikh summit in February, and the first such summit to be heldÃ‚Â in Jerusalem.
No statements were made after the meeting , and Abbas’ motorcade sped away back to Ramallah.
During the two-hour meeting, according to informed sources, Sharon repeatedly demanded that the PA act against terrorist organizations and prevent attacks on soldiers and settlers. Abbas demanded that Israel ‘strengthen his hand’ so that he could act.
Sharon rejected Palestinian claims that most of the operations conducted by the resistance are carried out from Israeli-controlled areasÃ‚Â inaccessible to Palestinian AuthorityÃ‚Â security forces. He threatened a new wave of Israeli military operations in the territories if the resistance doesn’t end its attacks.
Despite their differences, agreements were reached on a few issues. Abbas said that there would be security coordination between the sides and that the PA would deploy 5,000 policemen in the Gaza Strip. He also accepted the plan according to which Israel would destroy settlers’ homes and the PA would remove the debris using international funding.
Sharon announced a number of goodwill gestures: Bethlehem and Qalqilyah are to be handed over to PA control within two weeks; the number of Palestinian workers allowed in Israel will be increased; the checkpoints will be improved; and some frail veteran prisoners, including some with ‘blood on their hands’ – prisoners Israel accuses of violence against Israeli citizens -Ã‚Â will be released.
Just before the Sharon-Abbas summit, Israeli military helicopters attempted to assassinate a member of the Islamic Jihad in Beit Lahia, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. Two missiles were fired from a military Apache helicopter but missed their target. No injuries were reported.