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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sides Vow More Talk On Hebron Impasse

JERUSALEM -- Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization blamed each other for the collapse Monday of a three-week U.S. bid to win accord on an army pullout from the West Bank town of Hebron, but insisted the talks will go on in an effort to break the deadlock.


U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross said he was heading home, having failed in another all-night effort to get Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to agree.


"Over the past three weeks we have made substantial progress," Ross said in a statement. But his bottom line was: "Differences remain."


Palestinian President Yasser Arafat left on a three-day European tour.


"In view of the fact that Chairman Arafat is departing today for scheduled stops in Europe, I am returning to Washington for consultations," Ross said.


The impasse raised fears of fresh violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a month after unprecedented gun battles claimed the lives of 60 Palestinians and 15 Israeli soldiers.


A 10-year-old Palestinian boy died in hospital Monday after being beaten in the West Bank by a Jewish settler who suspected he had thrown stones at Israeli cars, the boy's father said.


In Hebron, where 400 Jews live in heavily guarded compounds amid 100,000 Palestinians, Jewish settlers opened fire near Palestinians on Sunday after their vehicle was pelted with stones.


Israelis and Palestinians have logged scores of negotiating hours this month trying to come to terms on the Hebron withdrawal, which Israel committed to more than a year ago.


U.S. President Bill Clinton urged both Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in separate telephone calls Sunday to seal the deal. Palestinians accuse Israel of trying to dictate new terms for the redeployment in Hebron, the last of seven towns the Jewish state agreed to hand over to Palestinian self-rule under a deal signed by the previous Labor government.


The troop redeployment has been delayed since March.


"The thing that's causing the delay at this moment is the absence of a decision or the absence of an order from the highest level on the Palestinian side for the delegation to complete this thing," Netanyahu told reporters Monday.


He said the deal could have been done days ago. "We're mad at Arafat. He's apparently trying to stall," said Netanyahu's spokesman Shai Bazak. Other Israeli officials said Arafat thought he might get a better deal after U.S. elections on Nov. 5.


"We are not thinking much about whether the agreement will be reached before the elections or after them. We want an agreement now," countered Palestinian negotiator Nabil Amr.


"When we reach answers to the questions on the table, we will sign the agreement whether it is tonight or after several days," Amr told Israel Radio.


Netanyahu, who ousted Labor in national elections last May, has said adjustments are necessary to safeguard the 400 Jews in Hebron.


Palestinians said the differences centered on Israel's demand for the right to pursue Palestinian militants into parts of Hebron it hands over to the PLO and what arms Palestinian police would be allowed to carry.