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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

PLO, Israelis Jump Start Talks on Hebron Pullout

JERUSALEM -- Israeli and Palestinian negotiators tried to get talks on Israel's troop pullout from Hebron back on track Tuesday, despite the absence of Yasser Arafat and President Bill Clinton's special envoy.


Officials from the two sides met Tuesday afternoon in Tel Aviv to discuss security issues holding up the withdrawal.


In Hebron, Jewish settlers shouting "This is our home'' pushed and shoved two Arafat aides as they toured the city center Tuesday. Israeli police escorted the two Palestinians away from the area.


Three weeks of U.S.-brokered talks on Hebron, the last West Bank city under Israeli control, broke down Monday after the sides failed to reach agreement before Arafat left on a European tour.


Dennis Ross, Clinton's special Mideast envoy, returned to Washington early Tuesday, U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Scorza said. But talks resumed Tuesday afternoon in Tel Aviv, with Palestinian top negotiator Saab Erekat and Jibril Rajoub, the Palestinian security chief in the West Bank, there for the Palestinian side, Palestinian sources said.


Israeli government spokesman Moshe Fogel confirmed that the talks were underway "in the security area.''


"From our point of view, we can continue discussing the security aspects and trying to pinpoint where we can go forward,'' he said.


Earlier Tuesday, Israel and the Palestinians traded accusations over who was responsible for the failure to reach agreement.


"At the moment the one who is delaying its completion is the Palestinian side,'' said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


Arafat, speaking to reporters in Norway on Monday night, rejected the suggestion that he had dodged agreement.


"It is the Israelis who have escaped by not implementing accurately and honestly what has been agreed upon and what has been signed,'' he said.


Israel's previous government signed an agreement with the Palestinians to withdraw from Palestinian areas of Hebron, a town of 94,000 Palestinians and 450 Jewish settlers. But Netanyahu, who took office in June, has insisted that the agreement be modified to improve security for the settlers.