Palestinian and Israeli negotiators met in Cairo on 29 March in an attempt to restart full peace talks, despite a renewed outbreak of violence in Gaza. Palestinians are continuing preparations for taking control of the new police force in Gaza as the 13 April deadline for Israeli withdrawal approaches. PLO officials in Gaza have said that if talks move ahead swiftly the Palestinian police will start being deployed in Gaza and Jericho by 7 April.

The latest wave of violence has been sparked by the killing of six PLO activists in Gaza on 28 March by Israeli soldiers and undercover agents. PLO officials, including chief negotiator Nabil Shaath, have alleged that the latest killings were carried out by secret organisations in the Israeli army determined to bring down the peace talks whenever any progress is made.

The PLO said as the Cairo meetings went ahead that it was still waiting for the Israeli response to demands on security arrangements in Hebron in line with the UN resolution which condemns the 25 February massacre.

Israeli negotiators are pushing for far fewer Palestinian police and international observers than the PLO demands. They also want Israeli observers in the Hebron headquarters of the Palestinian police force, but do not want the observers to take responsibility if there are any security breaches. The PLO has said its conditions need to be met before a joint statement can be prepared and peace talks resumed.

But work is reported to be going ahead in preparation for the Palestinian police force that will take over control of Gaza. The building which is expected to become the headquarters of the new force was nearing completion in late March, after extensive renovation work, despite the fact that the funding and final size of Palestinian force has yet to be agreed.