GAZA (Reuters) – Israeli soldiers shot dead three Palestinians near the Gaza border on Monday in violence that added to growing pessimism that Israeli and Palestinian leaders would hold a summit as planned on Tuesday.
Israel”s Haaretz newspaper reported the meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas might be postponed until November to give both sides more time to ensure the talks do not end in acrimony.
Sharon and Abbas aides planned to meet later in the day to discuss whether the summit, their first since Israel completed a Gaza pullout last month amid hopes for fresh peacemaking, would go ahead.
Along the Gaza frontier, Israeli troops fired at three Palestinians who the army said were spotted crawling near the border fence and ignored calls to halt.
Palestinians later brought their bodies to a Gaza hospital. Medics said no weapons were found on them.
The shooting marked the first killings of what the army said were would-be infiltrators since Israel ended 38 years of military rule in the Gaza Strip.
In the run-up to the summit, Abbas has called on Israel to release prisoners — a highly emotive issue for Palestinians — and pull back from more cities in the occupied West Bank.
Such gestures could improve the moderate leader”s standing among Palestinians ahead of a White House visit on October 20 and a parliamentary election in January in which his mainstream Fatah faction faces a strong challenge from the militant Hamas group.
Israel has balked at freeing Palestinians who have killed its citizens. Sharon, fresh from a leadership battle in his rightist Likud party over the Gaza pullout, is expected to use the summit to press demands that Abbas disarm factions dedicated to destroying Israel.
In Gaza City, two militants and a Palestinian security officer were wounded in a gunfight in the latest eruption of the internecine Palestinian violence that has increased since the Israeli withdrawal.
Witnesses said several bodyguards of a Palestinian security official had tried to stop a car carrying militants from the Popular Resistance Committees. When they refused to pull over, the men opened fire at the gunmen.
One militant was arrested, a security source said.
Rival Palestinian militant groups denounced on Saturday inter-factional violence that has undermined Abbas”s calls for law and order.