IDF chief orders reduction of offensive operations in Gaza (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Amos Harel, Aluf Benn and Arnon Regular, Haaretz Correspondents, and The Associated Press 01/28/05 15:40 (GMT+2)
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Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Moshe Ya´alon instructed
commanders on Friday to minimize offensive operations in all
Palestinian areas, but especially in the Gaza Strip, where
Palestinian security forces finished deploying Friday.
Hundreds of Palestinian police officers deployed in the central and
southern Gaza Strip on Friday, a day after the new Palestinian
leadership banned civilians from carrying weapons and Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon said conditions were ripe for a breakthrough toward
The reduced military activity in Gaza is intended to allow
Palestinian forces to take security responsibility in the Strip.
"The intention here is to let the Palestinian forces operate in an
efficient manner and to allow them to do their job and maintain
order," said David Baker, an official in the prime minister´s office.
If the quiet continues, the IDF will open the Erez, Karni and Rafah
crossings, which connect Gaza to Israel and Egypt, starting next
week. The Karni crossing was opened Friday for four hours to allow
fruit deliveries to the Strip.
In the West Bank, the reduced military activity will focus on
immediate security needs and operations against terror cells. Any
operations in the West Bank are now subject to Ya´alon´s approval, he
The IDF also intends to ease restrictions on Palestinian movement in
the West Bank.
On Friday, armed Palestinian policemen left their barracks in a long
convoy, heading for two of the most volatile areas, the refugee camps
of Khan Yunis and Rafah. From there, militants have launched hundreds
of rocket and mortar attacks at Israeli troops and settlements, and
both camps have been scenes of repeated clashes between Palestinian
gunmen and Israeli troops.
Hundreds of Palestinians lined the streets to watch the police convoy
of jeeps and buses moving through the roads of Khan Yunis. "Look, we
have an army and we didn´t even know it," shouted one youth as the
police went by.
An additional 600 officers deployed in central Gaza, after a morning
drill in a sports stadium in the town of Deir el-Balah. "This
decision was taken by the Palestinian leadership in order to secure
the Palestinian people and to secure our land. We will protect
security in our area, and along the borders," said their commander,
Maj. Hamza Shihade.
Last Friday, Palestinian police fanned out across northern Gaza with
the same mission, and since then, there have been few violent
Over the weekend, top Israelis and Palestinians are to set the terms
for an Israeli troop pullback from West Bank towns, and an Israeli-
Palestinian summit is expected soon.
Mofaz to discuss PA control of West Bank towns
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz was set to consult with security
officials Friday on the possibility of transferring control of West
Bank towns to Palestinians, Israel Radio reported.
Mofaz met Thursday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London
and informed him of plans to meet with former Palestinian security
chief Mohammed Dahlan on the possibility that security arrangements
can be completed in time to initiate the transfer of West Bank towns
to Palestinian security control.
Mofaz expressed his hope that the transfer will take place as soon as
the Palestinians are ready to undertake the responsibility.
PM: Breakthrough will bring us calm and security
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon struck a note of optimism on Thursday
when he said "the conditions have been created that will enable us
and the Palestinians to reach a historic breakthrough in our
Speaking at a meeting of the Contractors Association, he described
the breakthrough as one "that will bring us to calm and security and
in the future to the desired peace."
Sharon said "we are following with great interest the recent
developments in the Palestinian Authority and it is apparent that
there is a positive approach to the fight against terrorism and to
the furthering of the diplomatic process.
"If the Palestinians take extensive action to end terrorism, violence
and incitement, we will be able to proceed in our contacts for the
implementation of the road map and it is even possible to coordinate
a variety of actions regarding the disengagement plan," he added.
"We are seeing encouraging signs, but these things need to stand up
to the test of time," Sharon said.
Among the signs Sharon was referring to was an edict issued Thursday
by the new Palestinian leadership banning civilians from carrying
In issuing the decree, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia
stressed that the "chaos of the weapons" had led to a rise in
Also Thursday, sources in the PA said that Nasser Yousef was due to
be appointed interior minister in the Qureia government. Yousef was
in charge of cracking down on militants in the mid-1990s and his
likely appointment is another signal that the new PA leadership is
serious about restoring law and order. (© Copyright 2005 Haaretz.
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