Demolitions in Gaza to end: Israel tells US

from Agence France-Presse
Published on 20 May 2004
WASHINGTON, May 20 (AFP) - Israel on Tuesday assured the United States that its army will not demolish more homes in the Gaza Strip and will not seek to widen a buffer zone along the Egyptian border, a US official said Thursday.

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told US Secretary of State Colin Powell that "there would not be further destructions of houses and there they were not going to widen the strip," a State Department official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

Seven more Palestinians were killed Thursday as Israeli troops pushed on with an unprecedented raid into Rafah, bringing the overall toll since Tuesday to 41.

Israel says it wants to smash tunnels used by Palestinian militants to smuggle weapons from Egypt, and it has blown up or bulldozed dozens of houses in the process, leaving some 1,000 Palestinians homeless.

Israel's raids have continued despite an outpouring of international condemnation, including a UN Security Council resolution passed Wednesday criticizing Israel for killing Palestinian civilians and demolishing their houses.

The United States abstained from the vote, choosing not to use its veto to shield Israel from criticism.

"We have made clear our positions, and you'll have to ask the Israelis how much they take them into account," spokesman Richard Boucher said.

The United States toughened its rhetoric Wednesday, saying that Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip does not "serve the purposes of peace and security."

Powell spoke early Thursday with Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath, Boucher added.

cr/gs/mdl Mideast-US-Gaza

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Received by NewsEdge Insight: 05/20/2004 16:03:18

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