Assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs William Burns arrived in the region at the end of May for talks with Egyptian, Israeli and Palestinian officials about political issues. He was to be joined by CIA director George Tenet, whose task was to be addressing security concerns.

The US has made clear that it favours an enhanced role for Mohamed Dahlan, the Palestinian Authority chief of preventive security in the Gaza Strip. Dahlan was in Washington at the end of May for talks with senior US officials, including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. The US is pressing for a unified Palestinian security apparatus to replace the numerous bodies that now exist in both Gaza and the West Bank.

The new political and security moves are to be the focus of the 7-8 June talks President Mubarak of Egypt is scheduled to hold in Camp David with US President Bush. Mubarak’s chief political adviser, Osama el-Baz, visited Israel for talks with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, as part of the preparations for Mubarak’s US visit.

The political moves have come against the backdrop of continued violence. Three Israelis were killed on 28 May when a Palestinian gunman attacked the Itamar settlement in the West Bank. The previous day, two Israelis were killed in a Palestinian suicide bomb attack in Petah Tikvah. Israeli forces have made several incursions into West Bank towns.