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Palestinians arrest negotiations aide suspected of spying for Israel (Updated)

File photo: Jerusalem

Palestinian officials said on Sunday they had arrested a member of their peace negotiating department for spying for Israel, a development likely to deepen distrust between the sides at a time of deadlocked diplomacy and simmering street violence.

The man, whose name was not released, is part of the management staff in the umbrella Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) negotiations department and is accused of “collaborating with Israel”, a security official told Reuters.

Another official said the suspect was arrested two weeks ago.

Al Ayyam newspaper, published in the West Bank city of Ramallah where Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s U.S.-backed administration is based, described the suspect as a 20-year veteran of the PLO team and said he had confessed to the charge.

How long he had spied for Israel and what damage he might have done remained unclear, Al Ayyam said, citing an unnamed senior Palestinian official.

Israeli officials did not immediately respond.

The PLO and Israel signed interim accords in 1993 that won limited self-rule for the Palestinians, but after several rounds of talks their goal of statehood in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and in the Gaza Strip remains out of reach.

The stalemate, as well as Muslim anger over perceived Jewish encroachment on a contested Jerusalem shrine, has contributed to Palestinian street attacks and protests that erupted in October and have drawn a tough response from Israeli security forces.

A Palestinian tried to stab Israeli soldiers on Sunday near the West Bank town of Nablus and was shot dead, the army said.

That brought to at least 148 the number of Palestinians killed in the last three and a half months, 94 of whom Israel described as assailants. Most of the others died during violent demonstrations.

In the same period, Palestinian stabbings, car-rammings and gun attacks have killed 24 Israelis and a U.S. citizen.

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