JERUSALEM — CIA chief George Tenet brought together Israeli and Palestinian security chiefs Friday in a high-level joint effort to stabilize a cease-fire and prepare the way for resuming peace negotiations.
The three-way security meeting in the West Bank town of Ramallah came a day after Tenet met separately with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and security commanders.
Tenet’s mediation sparked angry rallies by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, during which the CIA chief was burned in effigy. Hamas accused Tenet of trying to pit Palestinians against each other amid Israeli demands for a crackdown on militants, and it vowed the intefadeh, or uprising, would not stop.
U.S. mediator William Burns held talks with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat after meeting earlier Friday with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres
The European Union has also taken a direct role: placing security experts at two West Bank friction points to help keep the cease-fire, EU and Palestinian officials said.
Israel has rejected the presence of any international observers, and EU officials were careful to say the experts were not observers.
Twenty-four Europeans are working to guarantee the cease-fire, particularly in the West Bank town of Beit Jalla and the Gaza Strip areas of Nitzarim settlement and Rafah, a Palestinian political official said on condition of anonymity. The EU teams have met regularly with Palestinian security and reviewed patrols on the ground, where Palestinian police have been trying to keep gunmen from nearing flashpoints, Palestinian officials said.
Israel declared a unilateral cease-fire on May 22.
Arafat called for an end to violence June 1, after a suicide bomber killed 20 Israelis in an attack on a Tel Aviv beachfront disco.
Violence continued Friday at a relatively low ebb. A roadside shooting near Ofra settlement outside the West Bank town of Ramallah injured an Israeli civilian, the army said.
In the Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis, two Palestinians were wounded when Israeli soldiers fired bullets and tear gas at youths throwing stones after Friday prayers. Dr. Khalil Moussa of Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis said the two had been hit with live ammunition. Overnight, Palestinians fired mortar shells at an Israeli military outpost and a Jewish settlement in Gaza and set off an explosive near another base.
About 2,000 Palestinians joined a Hamas rally in Ramallah, burning a U.S. flag, Tenet’s picture and a banner that read “Tenet go home.” A cardboard and paper model of site of the Tel Aviv bombing was doused with fuel and set ablaze.
In the West Bank town of Nablus, about 500 people demonstrated, burning Tenet in effigy and urging him in chants “not to equate the killer with the victim.”
Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi, a Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, said Tenet’s visit won’t stop the Palestinian uprising.
“This man and his administration are trying to turn our struggle against the Zionist occupiers into a Palestinian-Palestinian struggle by inciting the brothers in the Palestinian National Authority against their own people,” al-Rantissi said. “This man will fail to do so.”
Nabil Aburdeneh, an aide to Arafat, said further U.S. involvement is needed to bolster the cease-fire: “This a good opportunity, but it’s still like sand in the wind.”
Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer charged that radical Islamic groups, along with Arafat’s Force 17 guard unit are still carrying out attacks and planning more. He said Israeli intelligence has picked up more warnings about attacks in recent days than ever before, and he blamed Arafat.
“If he wants, tomorrow morning (there will be) total silence,” Ben-Eliezer said.
Palestinian Cabinet minister Nabil Shaath complained that even though Arafat took risks to declare a cease-fire, the Israelis keep criticizing him.
“Since the cease-fire started, not even an encouragement by the Israeli leadership has been given. ... On the contrary. It’s always insults,” he said.
In meetings with Tenet on Thursday, the Israelis handed over a list of several dozen Palestinian militants, demanding that Arafat’s police arrest them, said Raanan Gissin, a senior aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
The Palestinians refused to consider making arrests, saying they were responsible for their people’s security, not Israel’s.
Palestinians have told Tenet that the security and political aspects of the conflict must not be separated, according to a participant, who insisted on anonymity. The Palestinians want Israel to commit to confidence-building measures, especially a freeze in Jewish settlement construction. Israel demands a full stop to the violence first.
Since the fighting began on Sept. 28, 592 people have been killed.