Israeli tank shells killed three Palestinian women in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, as Israelis and Palestinians prepared their responses to a U.S. document seeking an end to more than eight months of violence.
According to Palestinian hospital officials, the three women died from shrapnel wounds. The three, all from the same family, were Bedouin and lived in a camp near the isolated Jewish settlement of Netzarim.
They were identified as Nessra Malaha, 65, Salimia Malaha, 65, and her niece Hikmet Malaha, 25. They were the first deaths in violent attacks since Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat declared a cease-fire June 2.
Three other people suffered moderate wounds, doctors said.
The army said the tank fire was prompted by Palestinian shooting at an army post near the settlement.
In a bid to calm tensions in the Mideast, the Americans have presented a document that reportedly calls on Palestinians to rein in militants and calls on Israel to pull back its forces in hopes of ending the fighting.
The Americans would not tell what CIA chief George J. Tenet said at Friday's meeting with Israeli and Palestinian security officials, but Israeli radio said it had obtained details of a security document he presented.
Among its main points reportedly is a call for the Palestinians to make sweeping arrests of militants and crack down on anti-Israeli attacks.
It said Israel would be called on to halt attacks on Palestinian targets and to withdraw forces from West Bank and Gaza Strip positions that the army had returned to since the fighting began in September.
Officials from both sides refused to comment on the report. But Palestinian Cabinet minister Nabil Shaath confirmed that it included security matters detailed in a report issued last month by a commission led by former U.S. Sen. George J. Mitchell.