GAZA, (Agencies) – Israeli soldiers shot and wounded two Palestinians near the Gaza Strip boundary on Tuesday, Palestinian security sources and witnesses said.
The two were shot by Israeli troops near a security fence south of the Karni border crossing between Israel and Gaza, the witnesses said. Medical officials identified one of the wounded as a 13-year-old boy.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said the army was not aware of any incident in the area.
While the witnesses said the soldiers fired from Israeli territory, Israel’s Defence Minister Amir Peretz has authorised the army to carry out limited operations just inside the Gaza border against Palestinian militants.
Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a shaky ceasefire in November, though Palestinian militants have continued to fire rockets into southern Israel, causing no casualties.
The incident comes a day after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s call for a regional conference with Arab leaders drew a sceptical response from Saudi and Palestinian officials and diplomats who said it was a diversionary tactic.
Olmert proposed holding the conference as a possible alternative to U.S.-backed plans for talks through an Arab League working group that could try to negotiate details of a land-for-peace accord, diplomats involved in the matter said. But Saudi officials say the kingdom would only consider talks if Israel clearly accepted the Arab peace initiative without any conditions. A statement issued after Monday’s Saudi cabinet session stated the kingdom’s position.
“Israel should realise that peace requires that it ends its constant violations and inhuman aggression towards the Palestinian people before anything else, and accept legal decisions passed by world bodies,” it said.
The United States, Egypt and others have been pressing Olmert to agree to hold talks as soon as possible with the planned Arab League working group, but he has been reluctant to do so, the senior diplomats said, on condition of anonymity. “He is making an alternative proposal (to hold a regional conference) because he knows it won’t happen. He is sidestepping the issue,” said a diplomat close to the Israeli deliberations.
Nimer Hammad, a political adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called Olmert’s proposal “a dodge,” adding that “he seeks normalisation without paying the price.”
At the Riyadh summit, Arab leaders revived a 5-year-old peace plan that offers Israel normal ties with all Arab states in return for a full withdrawal from the lands it seized in the 1967 Middle East war, creation of a Palestinian state and a “just solution” for Palestinian refugees.
Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister Hani Khallaf said on Monday that an Arab League committee will set up a working group to contact Israel about the land-for-peace initiative.