RAMALLAH, West Bank – Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Saturday called for a cease-fire with Israel during the upcoming Olympic games in Greece, but Israel dismissed the offer as insincere.
Also Saturday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed an armed Palestinian in the West Bank city of Nablus, the army said. The army was enforcing a curfew in Nablus' old city for a third day in an operation to track down Palestinian militants.
Palestinians said five Arabs had been killed in the Nablus raid. The army did not immediately comment on the report.
Arafat issued his call for a halt in violence during a symbolic lighting of an unofficial Olympic torch at his headquarters in Ramallah.
A top U.S. envoy, meanwhile, met with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (search) and other officials to build momentum for Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
"I stressed President Bush's determination to do everything that the United States can to help seize the opportunity presented by the Israeli initiative," said William Burns, a senior State Department official who also has met with Israeli officials in recent days.
His visit came days after Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman (search) held separate talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on the terms of Israel's Gaza withdrawal, which is to be completed by the end of 2005.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) wants to evacuate Gaza and four isolated West Bank settlements, which he says will boost Israel's security. Israel refuses to talk directly to the Palestinians and Egypt has stepped in as a mediator.
Under the Egyptian plan, Palestinian militant groups would gather in Cairo in September for a cease-fire declaration. Within eight months, Palestinian security forces would begin collecting illegal weapons.
Burns told reporters after his meeting with Qureia that he had "emphasized the crucial importance of the Palestinian leadership making and implementing the decisions that are required to make a success" of Egypt's efforts.
Burns also stressed that the Gaza pullback should be a step in the "road map" peace plan, which envisions a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank.
Qureia warned the Gaza pullout will be "pointless" if it is not part of the road map.
Arafat called for a halt in violence during the Aug. 13-29 games.
"On the occasion of lighting the Palestinian Olympic torch, I declare our respect and commitment for an Olympic truce," Arafat said.
"We hope that the revival of the ancient and noble Greek tradition will help in creating a world that enjoys peace, justice and security for the coming generations," he said.
Israel accuses Arafat of encouraging militant groups to attack Israelis and a senior Israeli official dismissed the offer. The official recalled the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches killed by Palestinian militants at 1972 Munich Olympics (search).
"There is a big difference between what Arafat says and what he does," the official said on condition of anonymity.
In Nablus, soldiers searching from house to house for fugitive militants shot toward two armed men, killing one, the army spokesman said. Troops were looking for the second Palestinian man.
The army has been operating in Nablus since late Wednesday, trying to root out militants. Troops have surrounded the old city with barbed wire and taken over 20 buildings. About 20,000 residents of the neighborhood have been allowed to leave their homes only once, for an hour, since the operation began.
A total of three Palestinians have died during the Israeli operation. Paramedic Ghassan Hamdan said 14 others have been injured by Israeli gunfire.
Nablus is known as a hotbed of militancy against Israel and many suicide bombers have come from the largest city in the West Bank. The army said it has uncovered an explosives lab, a suicide bombers' belt and another bomb during the activity.
Meanwhile, about 1,500 protesters gathered in the West Bank village of Kaffin to demonstrate against Israel's separation barrier. Many demonstrators suffered from tear gas inhalation, but no other injuries were reported.
Israel says the structure of concrete walls, razor wire, fencing and trenches is meant to keep Palestinian suicide bombers and other attackers from entering Israeli towns and cities.
Palestinians are enraged by the structure, which they say is a land grab.