A crucial summit between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem has been described as “pretty bad” by a senior Palestinian official. It was the second meeting between Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian president Mahmous Abbas since he came to power earlier this year.Top of the agenda was Israel’s planned pullout of the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. The move described as an “historic step” towards the creation of an independent Palestinian state by US secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due to start in mid-August. Under the plan, Israel is to evacuate all 21 Jewish settlements from Gaza and four out of 120 from the West Bank. Sharon, however, has made clear it hinges on Abbas’ ability to rein in militants. The meeting came just a day after Palestinian gunmen killed a Jewish settler in the West Bank and Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian civilian in the Gaza Strip. In one step forward, Israel has agreed to hand back control of the West Bank cities of Bethlehem and Qalqilya to the Palestinian Authority.
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