Israeli and Palestinian leaders were meeting in Jerusalem to try to map out a joint program for next month's Middle East peace conference, a day after Israel completed the release of 86 prisoners as a goodwill gesture.
At their meeting yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were expected to take the first concrete steps toward a framework agreement for the international community at the summit next month. The two have been sparring in their previous meetings, but aides said actual work was about to begin.
In apparent internal Palestinian violence on Tuesday, four people were killed when a car exploded near the Hamas marine police headquarters in Gaza City, Hamas and hospital officials said.
The Fatah-affiliated Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades said in a statement that three of the dead were members of the militia who were killed on their way to a ``holy mission,'' meaning an attack apparently against Hamas, when Hamas militants fired a rocket-propelled grenade at their car.
A Web site affiliated with Hamas said the three Fatah militants were on their way to bomb a Hamas installation but the explosives went off prematurely. The fourth man killed was a bystander, the statement said.
Officially, the Hamas rulers of Gaza did not give any details about the incident after backing down from an earlier accusation that Israel was involved. Early yesterday, at least 15 relatives of the three men were arrested by Hamas security forces in their neighborhood east of Gaza City, residents said.
In further violence in Gaza, four Hamas fighters were injured early yesterday near the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel in an explosion the militant group blamed on an Israeli air strike.
The Israeli army denied any involvement in the blast. One of the militants later died of his wounds.
In a gesture meant to bolster Abbas in his struggle with Hamas, Israel sent 29 Palestinians back to the Gaza Strip on Tuesday.