Israel scraps peace talks after mortar attack

Israel cancelled a meeting with Palestinian negotiators today following a mortar attack on a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip.

A Palestinian official said Israel called off the meeting in response to the flare-up in violence. It was not immediately clear when the meeting would be rescheduled.

The talks were meant to follow up on Tuesday’s summit, where the Israeli and Palestinian leaders shook hands called for an end to four years of fighting.

Today’s meeting was expected to discuss the work of new joint committees that are to coordinate the planned release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and an Israeli military pullout from West Bank population centres.

Palestinian militants fired a barrage of mortar shells at a Jewish settlement in the southern Gaza Strip early today in the first serious breach of the ceasefire declared at the Red Sea summit.

Army Radio reported that 25 mortar shells were aimed at the settlement, and 13 exploded inside the perimeter, causing damage but no casualties.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas planned to go to Gaza later for talks with militant groups to try to cement the ceasefire he declared with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon.

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