On the same day, despite a two-month lull in attacks on civilian targets, the Israeli military launched major incursions into Ramallah and Jenin, arresting at least 60 Palestinians. Seven people were killed during the operation, including a seven-year-old boy.

The official launch of the unofficial Geneva Accord took place in the Swiss capital on 1 December, four days before the chief authors of the plan, former Israeli justice minister Yossi Beilin and former Palestinian information minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, were due to meet US Secretary of State Colin Powell to discuss the proposal. The accord goes beyond the roadmap in calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state and the dismantling of most Jewish settlements, as well as proposing joint sovereignty over Jerusalem and granting Israel the right to decide how many Palestinian refugees can return to Israel – others will receive financial compensation.

Opinion polls indicate the unofficial plan has broad public support in the US and Europe, as well as a moderate approval rating among Israelis and Palestinians. But the Israeli and Palestinian authorities remain committed, at least in name, to the official roadmap. Progress with the plan depends largely on the outcome of the Cairo meeting, but Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been talking of ‘unilateral’ action to end the conflict. Exactly what form this action takes remains to be seen, but Sharon has indicated that some ‘illegal settlements’ – those not authorised by Tel Aviv – may be dismantled.