Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Three armed gunmen were killed after they infiltrated Israel on its southern border with Egypt Wednesday. The shooting erupted as talk about a proposed Saudi peace gained momentum.
The three suspected terrorists were armed with Kalashnikov rifles and tried to infiltrate from Egypt, military sources said. They ran into Israeli army forces, which gave chase.
The gunmen were killed and two Israeli soldiers were wounded in the ensuing gun battle, according to radio reports. One of the terrorists reportedly was wearing an explosives belt, indicating he was ready to carry out a suicide attack.
Analysts said there was no doubt the Israeli soldiers prevented a very large attack.
Earlier in the day, 34-year-old Gad Rejwan was shot at point-blank range and killed by a Palestinian employee in unclear circumstances, police reported.
According to police spokesman Supt. Gil Kleiman, there was no dispute between the two men, and therefore, police were examining whether the incident was nationalistically motivated.
Saudi Peace Plan
Also on Wednesday, interest in a Saudi peace plan gained momentum but both Israeli sources and President Bush sought to put the plan in perspective.
The so-called Saudi proposal has yet to be formally presented. But Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud said in a recent interview with the New York Times that he was considering proposing that the Arab world normalize relations with Israel in exchange for a complete Israeli withdrawal from areas it captured from Jordan and Egypt in 1967 as a result of the Six Day war.
Israel's largely ceremonial President Moshe Katsav said in a radio interview on Wednesday that he viewed the incentive "very positively" - something of "very great importance."
"The fact that there would be normalization between the Arab world and Israel - this is certainly a dramatic step, a step of importance, deserving of consideration and serious thought," Katsav said in a radio interview.
Several other Israeli officials have commented positively on the proposal but Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has yet to address the topic publicly.
A senior official from the prime minister's office said that Sharon was not going to jump into the middle of something when no proposal had yet been made officially.
"With all due respect...[for] international media, New York Times, Tom Friedman (New York Times columnist) this is not the way to conduct business or diplomacy, but on the other hand, we didn't sit idle either," the official said, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"We have made some approaches in different channels to see, is it real and what's the substance," he added. Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem, the official said that Israel had conveyed to the Saudis that they would happy to meet with them anywhere and at any time.
The Saudi representative at the United Nations Security Council is supposed to address the council Wednesday, the official said. Then Israel may have more to respond to, he added.
The essence of the proposal as it has been reported is that Israel will pull out of the territories known as the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel has stated that while it is ready to make compromises on the land that it considers to be part of its eternal inheritance, it will never return to the 1967 boundaries.
"No Israeli government will go back to the fourth of June  line," the official said. "No Israeli government will give up Jerusalem."
The Palestinians have demanded that eastern Jerusalem become the capital of a future Palestinian state, including the historic Old City where there are many Christian and Jewish holy sites.
The official said the bottom line is that although Israel has formal agreements with Jordan and Egypt, does the Arab world really accept the presence of the Jewish state in the Middle East.
"Do they really accept in the deepest sense the birthright to the Jewish people of this tiny sliver of land?" he asked.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana cut short a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority areas and headed for Saudi Arabia where he was due to meet with Saudi officials on Wednesday to get more details about the proposal.
President Bush praised the Saudi proposal for the first time on Tuesday but said that the administration still backs its own Mitchell recommendations as a means of putting an end to the violence and returning the two sides to the negotiating table.
"The president praised the crown prince's ideas regarding the full Arab-Israeli normalization once a comprehensive peace agreement has been reached," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
However, he noted that the Saudi plan doesn't "change anything on the ground. The situation remains a very complicated situation and a very violent one."
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