JERUSALEM – Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (search) said Wednesday he has a two-stage strategy for achieving a cease-fire to end three years of Mideast violence: first, negotiate a truce with militant Palestinian groups, and then ask the Israelis to match it.
Qureia offered his plan amid continued violence. A 12-year-old boy was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers in the Balata refugee camp while Palestinians were throwing rocks, residents said. They said the boy was a distance away from the confrontation and was not involved. The military said soldiers shot a Palestinian who was throwing firebombs.
Also, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian man and wounded another after they crossed into a restricted area around the fence that separates Gaza (search) from Israel, military sources said.
The men had no weapons, but they had just planted a 44-pound explosive device, the military said. The army neutralized the bomb.
The dead man's family identified him as Mohammed Awad, 26, a supporter of the Islamic Jihad (search) militant group.
The army said militants often planned attacks in the area and three soldiers where wounded during an attack there last month.
In the West Bank, Palestinian gunmen ambushed an Israeli car near the Jewish settlement of Kadim, injuring an Israeli man seriously and his wife lightly, police and rescue workers said.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades (search), a militant group affiliated with Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to The Associated Press.
A new truce would replace one that collapsed in the summer. On June 29, the main Palestinian militant groups declared a unilateral halt to attacks against Israelis. It held for about six weeks, until a new wave of homicide bombings and Israeli military operations.
This time, Qureia said, he would bring in the Israelis as part of the deal, but first, he would persuade violent groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad to go along.
"I don't have American and Israeli assurances. I want Palestinian assurances, and if I get these Palestinian assurances, then there will be no problem," Qureia said.
Qureia also said that truce talks with Hamas have been "constructive." Hamas spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin said this week that his group would consider a truce but would not give up its right to strike at Israelis.
In Beirut, Lebanon, the political chief of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, said a quick agreement for a truce with Israel was unlikely. "Sharon does not want a cease-fire and the U.S. is preoccupied with Iraq and its elections," Mashaal, speaking from Beirut, said in an interview Wednesday with the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television.
Hamas, responsible for most of the 104 homicide bombings in three years of conflict, follows an Islamic ideology that does not allow for a Jewish state in the Middle East.
Qureia said the real problem is the Israelis. "When the Israeli side is ready and prepared for a mutual and serious cease-fire, a mutual cease-fire with clear conditions" can be worked out, he said, listing problem areas including the barrier Israel is building between the West Bank and Israel, dipping into the West Bank in several places.
Israel has been cool to the idea of a new truce, demanding instead that the Palestinians crack down on the violent groups and disarm them, as required by the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan.
Implementation of the plan, formally presented last June, has bogged down in violence and efforts to form a stable Palestinian government.
Qureia is serving a head of an emergency Cabinet appointed by Arafat with a one-month mandate that expires Nov. 4. Arafat has asked Qureia to form a full Cabinet by then, though he failed in weeks of haggling -- including serious disagreements with Arafat himself -- to put together a Cabinet over the past month.
Israel and the United States are boycotting Arafat, charging that he is involved in Palestinian terrorism. The absence of a stable Palestinian Cabinet has stopped talks over the "road map" plan, which calls for an end to violence and leads through three stages to a Palestinian state in 2005.
Palestinians blame Israel for the violence, citing travel restrictions and crackdowns in the West Bank, confining hundreds of thousands to their towns and villages, crippling the Palestinian economy and causing severe hardships.
The Israeli military chief criticized government policy as being too tough on the Palestinians, warning of desperation and a humanitarian crisis, Israeli media reported. Government officials refused to comment, but an army spokeswoman said there was a debate on the issues.
On Wednesday, the military slightly eased restrictions, allowing 3,000 merchants from the West Bank and 1,000 from Gaza to work in Israel, and permitting 1,500 Palestinian workers to return to their jobs in an industrial zone in a part of the West Bank controlled by Israel.
Some in the government have been reluctant to relax the current restrictions for fear of more attacks, but others took the opposite tack.
"It's very clear that any pressure on the Palestinian population is obviously going to, in the end, create new terror," Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim told Army Radio.
Before violence erupted in September 2000, more than 100,000 Palestinians crossed into Israel to work.