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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Agreement To Mitigate West Bank, Gaza Woes

WASHINGTON -- Responding to Arab anger and European appeals, the Clinton administration has forged an agreement to ease Israel's restrictions on Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza.

The plan, announced Thursday by U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher after telephone calls were made to Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, shifts gears both on the focus of a two-day conference of 27 nations and U.S. strategy for coping with terrorism and the anxiety four suicide bombings have caused the Israeli people.

The conference, which continued Friday at the State Department, expanded its agenda from considering measures to counter terrorism to ways to ease the impact of Israeli security measures on Gaza and the West Bank.

At the same time, the administration, which had implacably backed Israel in screening out Palestinians, shifted its concern to include the impact of the measures on the region and to engineer modifications.

"We must find ways to support the Palestinian people as they, too, suffer the consequences of the Hamas bombings," Christopher said. The militant Islamic group Hamas, which opposes the Israel-PLO peace process, took credit for most of the bombings.

Saeb Erakat, a senior official in the Palestinian Authority, to which Israel has ceded control of Gaza and most of the West Bank, criticized the steps. He said the Palestinians needed $100 million beyond the $1.86 billion pledged internationally in 1994 and 1995 "to help them avoid starvation."

Under the plan announced by Christopher, Israel will permit construction material and Egyptian trucks to pass through checkpoints so people in hard-pressed Gaza can get back to work. Citrus and other exports from the territories will be shipped to the outside world from Israel and Jordan.

An emergency job program will be established in the areas, and entry of material for the program will be eased.