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Dublin: 3 °C Tuesday 18 February, 2020

Isreali deaths overshadow peace talks

First direct talks between Israel and Palestine in over 18 months open in Washington.

President Obama speaks outside the Oval Office today, accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.
President Obama speaks outside the Oval Office today, accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.
Image: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP/Press Association Images

THE MURDER OF FOUR PEOPLE near an Israeli settlement in the West Bank yesterday is overshadowing peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

The talks – the first direct negotiations between the two groups in almost two years – began today in Washington.

Opening the talks, President Obama took a moment to speak about yesterday’s shootings, saying that they demonstrated the challenges facing the politicians:

There are going to be extremists and rejectionists who, rather than seeking peace, are going to be seeking destruction, and the tragedy that we saw yesterday, where people were gunned down on the street by terrorists who are purposely trying to undermine these talks, is an example of what we’re up against.

Both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders are in difficult political situations at home, according to Al Jazeera.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition government is in danger of collapsing, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is trying to stay on top of an increasingly divided community.

The US has been putting pressure on Israel to stick to a temporary settlement freeze in the West Bank which has been routine violated.

Abbas has initially said his presence at the talk rested solely on a complete Israeli settlement freeze, but withdrew his demand last month.

Security operations in the West Bank have been stepped up, and around 250 Hamas members have been detained by Israeli authorities.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza strip, had earlier accepted responsibility for the four deaths via a message on their website. The top Hamas leader today rejected participating in any negotiations with Israel.

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