Israelis stall on land deal

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The Independent Online
ISRAEL LAST night said it would refuse to ratify the agreement reached last week with the Palestinians until they had presented a security plan. The Cabinet meeting to discuss the deal, under which Israel would stage a partial withdrawal from the West Bank, has been postponed.

The government accused the Palestinians of not presenting the security plan outlining measures to be taken for the security of Israel on time. Another motive for the action by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister, may be that he lacks support for the agreement in his Cabinet or is reacting to a spate of violent incidents since he returned from the US.

Palestinian security forces, trying to underline that they are co-operating with Israel, yesterday said they had arrested two men who confessed to killing a settler in Hebron earlier in the week. Danny Vargas, 29, was buried yesterday amid calls from the far right for the abrogation of the land deal.

Palestinian General Intelligence in Gaza said the men also admitted shooting dead an Israeli and seriously wounding another on 13 October.

The Vargas killing is the first test of the new relationship between the Israeli government and Mr Arafat since the Wye accords.

Outside Nablus, in the northern West Bank, Palestinians stoned Israeli troops yesterday in protest at the killing of Mohammed Zalmout, 65, a Palestinian bludgeoned to death about the same time as Mr Vargas died. Troops responded with tear-gas and rubber bullets. Police do not believe the two killings are connected.

Mr Arafat's first attempt to confiscate weapons ran into trouble elsewhere in the West Bank. Palestinians mounted a general strike yesterday to press him to execute members of the Palestinian military intelligence who shot dead a member of Fatah, Mr Arafat's own party, on Sunday.