The Sept. 11 attacks on the United States sidetracked an initiative by the Bush administration to launch Israel and the Palestinians into a new peacemaking process that only now is beginning to take shape again, a senior U.S. official said.
It was understood by Israel as well as the Palestinians that the outcome, if successful, would include creation of a Palestinian state, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Bush addressed the issue after a meeting with congressional leaders Tuesday morning. "The idea of a Palestinian state has always been a part of a vision so long as the right to an Israeli state is respected," he said.
First things first, he said reducing the level of violence that has wracked the region this year. "I fully understand that progress is made in centimeters in the Middle East," Mr. Bush said. "And we believe we're making some progress."
In the Middle East, meanwhile, Palestinian gunmen raided a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, killing at least two children and seizing a house and hostages, the Israeli army said.
The raid marked the first time that Palestinian gunmen had taken hostages since the start a year ago of a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.
"Two people were killed. They were children," an army spokeswoman said. She did not know their ages.
The raid and an ensuing gun battle were certain to strain a ceasefire perhaps to breaking point which Israel and the Palestinian Authority have repeatedly accused the other of violating.
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