ISRAEL'S Cabinet yesterday approved expanding some aspects of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank despite the killing Friday of two Israelis by Islamic militants.
Under a plan drafted by negotiators last week in Cairo, Israel was to give the Palestinians control over education, health, welfare, taxation, and tourism in the West Bank. The accord excludes East Jerusalem and Jewish settlements.
The Islamic group Hamas claims responsibility for the attack, saying the attack marked the six-month anniversary of the Feb. 25 Hebron mosque massacre, in which an Israeli settler opened fire on Muslim worshipers, killing 30.
Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat said yesterday he was trying to open talks with the Hamas movement. He said he was orchestrating contacts ``at different levels'' to bring Hamas on board.
Hamas is debating internally whether to form a political party and seek influence through the ballot.
Hamas sources confirmed that contacts with the PLO were under way. ``What is needed is a dialogue that will not fail so it has to be carefully prepared,'' says Ismail Hanieh, a former Hamas deportee and lecturer at Gaza's Islamic University. ``We need positive signals from the [Palestinian] Authority that it is interested in talks with all who want to be involved in building the state,'' he says. Egypt beefs up security for conference
EGYPT has tightened security at hotels and tourist sites after Muslim militants warned foreigners to stay away from the United Nations-sponsored International Conference on Population and Development, which opens Sept. 5 in Cairo and is expected to draw up to 20,000 participants.
Egypt's main militant organization, the Gamaa Islamiya (Islamic Group), has said that foreigners who take part will be risking their lives.
Hoteliers say they had already stepped up security to cope with the influx of delegates, but had to increase their security staff again after a militant attack on a tourist bus killed a Spanish boy and wounded three Spaniards in southern Egypt on Friday.
Conservative Muslims have attacked the draft conference document, which takes a pragmatic approach toward issues such as abortion and extramarital and adolescent sex. The Gamaa has targeted Egypt's $3 billion-a-year tourist industry to try to destabilize the government. More than 400 people have been killed in Egypt since the Gamaa took up arms against the government.