Gaza ban throws talks into crisis

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Israel's refusal to end the closure of the West Bank and Gaza yesterday pushed the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks farther into crisis. Two hours of talks between the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and the PLO chairman, Yasser Arafat, brok e up abruptly without agreement.

Israel is insisting on tougher security measures in Gaza before it will lift the ban on 55,000 Palestinians working in Israel and implement the next stage of the Oslo agreement. "I think there is a crisis, a real crisis," said Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senioraide of Mr Arafat. "There are two tendencies and two approaches."

Mr Arafat stormed out of the meeting without making any comment while Mr Rabin played down the crisis saying: "From our standpoint the main dominant consideration is the matter of security." He added that 2,000 extra Palestinian police are to be mobilised in the self-rule areas of Gaza and Jericho.

In an attempt to persuade Israel that he is acting against groups that attack Israelis Mr Arafat has arrested 35 members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which claimed the shooting of an Israeli security guard on Monday. His police also arrested 30 members Islamic Jihad and closed down Istiqlal, a newspaper that supported them, and arrested its editor.

The raid on the Istiqlal offices was shown on Israeli television. Another opposition newspaper, al-Watan, yesterday ran a cartoon showing Mr Arafat in a craven posture beside Mr Rabin saying: "Sir, believe me, I didn't do anything." A document marked "revenge procedures" is sticking out of Mr Rabin's pocket. Gazans still expect a reaction by Israeli undercover squads operating within the city against those they believe responsible for the Beit Lid bomb attack which killed 21 Israelis last month.