Israelis talk peace to sound of gunfire: The killing of six Gazans by undercover soldiers has sent out mixed messages about the government's commitment to the peace deal

AMER al-Barkoni, aged six, was hunting for bullets yesterday on a large expanse of empty ground in the centre of Gaza City. A month ago the Israeli army had a large camp here. But now the soldiers have gone, leaving a sandy playground littered with odd ammunition. For Gazans the dismantling of this camp is a sign that Israel is serious about peace.

Not far away, however, a neighbourhood was yesterday mourning the death of a leader, and the streets were filled with the smoke of burning tyres. Ahmed abu Ib'Tahan was shot dead, along with five others, by Israeli undercover soldiers on Monday.

None was wanted by the Israelis and all were supporters of the peace agreement and followers of Fatah, the mainstream faction of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Just two hours before he was killed, Ib'Tahan had been drinking coffee with an Israeli administrator in Gaza, discussing the timetable for withdrawal. For Gazans these latest killings are a sign that Israel still wants war.

'These men were committed to the peace process. They were highly respected and were working to help implement the agreement,' said Diah al-Louh, the PLO spokesman in Gaza yesterday, as another Palestinian was shot dead in a new surge of violence. Six months after the signing of the September peace agreement, nobody knows what to make of the mixed messages coming from Israel.

On the one hand, there are the reasons for optimism. Withdrawal has clearly begun, with some reports saying the 70 per cent of the military have now been pulled back from centres of Arab population in Gaza. Not only has the central Gaza camp been dismantled, but large quantities of heavy equipment have been removed from the military administration headquarters in the city.

Ansar 11, the main Israeli prison, no longer holds long- term prisoners. New bases have been established around the Gaza settlement area, where the Israeli military will remain until the final status of the lands is decided.

Israel has allowed Fatah activists, mostly ex-prisoners, to start building a political power-base in the occupied territories, ready for the return of Yasser Arafat, chairman of the PLO.

A new PLO police station was being made ready yesterday for the arrival of the Palestinian police force.

At the same time Israeli politicians have been demonstrating their peace credentials by pressing Mr Arafat to return to the negotiations, which were halted after the Hebron massacre, promising swift implementation of the Gaza-Jericho accords.

Meanwhile, however, despite the pull-back in Gaza, the army's street presence is as obtrusive as ever. Provocative patrols continue daily and arrests and harassment, particularly by undercover units, are unabated, undermining support for the negotiations that the political leadership wishes to promote.

The Fatah activists killed on Monday were part of Mr Arafat's new security apparatus, responsible for policing the Palestinian streets and enforcing the PLO's ceasefire with the Israeli army. Their deaths, on the eve of a highly sensitive new round of Israeli- PLO talks, could not have been better timed to sabotage the negotiations.

In fact, Mr Arafat held the line, and the PLO-Israel meeting did take place yesterday, although little progress was reported and the atmosphere, still hostile as a result of the Hebron massacre, was further soured. Nabil Shaath, the PLO negotiator, condemned the Gaza killings as 'cold-blooded murder'.

(Photograph omitted)

Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Portfolio Analyst/ PMO

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Systems Analyst (Technical, UML, UI)

£30000 - £40000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn