Arafat and Rabin aim for deadline

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The Independent Online
BOTH Israeli and Palestinian leaders appeared determined yesterday to try to meet the deadline of 13 December, when the hand-over to Palestinian self-rule is due to start, despite many problems still dogging the process.

The negotiations have stumbled over the degree to which Israel is to 'withdraw' from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho.

Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), has accused the Israelis of offering only to 're-deploy'. He claims this would constitute a limited withdrawal and therefore breach the terms of the declaration of principles signed by both sides.

Mr Arafat said yesterday that he would continue with the negotiations, although signals from Israel remained 'completely negative'.

Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, has suggested that 13 December is only a 'target date'. But his government appears confident that the obstacles can be overcome.

Meanwhile in the Gaza Strip yesterday Israeli troops shot dead an activist from Mr Arafat's Fatah faction, Palestinians said.

Ahmed Abu al-Reesh, 23, was shot in Khan Younis as he spoke with Fatah members who had not surrendered during the Israeli amnesty offered to activists in return for a pledge they will lay down their arms. Palestinians said an Israeli undercover unit surprised the group.

AIN HELWE, Lebanon - Israeli helicopters raided the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain Helwe near the southern Lebanon port city of Sidon yesterday, AFP reports. An AFP photographer said the helicopters fired several missiles, causing panic in the Palestinian camp, the largest in Lebanon with 80,000 residents.