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Paving the way for progress (JERUSALEM POST) By MARGOT DUDKEVITCH AND JPOST STAFF 01/29/05 23:18)Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1106882871151 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Paving the way for future progress, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz is meeting with Palestinian security advisor Mohammed Dahlan in Tel Aviv on Saturday night to discuss additional steps to be taken in order to enhance security and transfer the security control of West Bank cities to the Palestinians.

At the outset of the meeting, which took place at the Sheraton Moriah Hotel, three mortar shells were fired at a settlement in Gush Katif and a Kassam rocket was fired into the western Negev.

Mofaz is expected to demand that the Palestinian security forces take action against the terror groups, arrest fugitives, dismantle and confiscate weapons, and destroy the factories used to manufacture Kassam rockets and bombs, security officials told The Jerusalem Post.

While the Palestinians have successfully deployed security forces in the Gaza Strip, Mofaz and Dahlan will examine if similar steps can be implemented in the West Bank, the officials said.

Mofaz will also discuss the gradual transfer of security control of the West Bank cities to the Palestinians. However, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the officials said, will decide the process´s timeframe.

The defense minister is expected to discuss the transfer of information relating to terrorist activities to the Palestinians in order to assist them in combating terror. The two are also expected to examine additional faith building steps to be taken, including easing travel restrictions in the West Bank, lifting closures and the removal of checkpoints, officials said.

The officials warned that despite the progress already made, the situation remains extremely fragile. "God forbid [but] if a suicide bomb attack occurs in Israel, then the whole process will be suspended and all advancement will be stopped," an official said.

Israel will not agree to the Palestinian request to halt targeted killings, the officials said. "It is Israel´s responsibility to protect its citizens, and while the army will refrain from conducting initiated operations, if the Palestinians fail to act against "ticking bombs" then they leave Israel no option," one of the officials said. "If we receive information that a terrorist wearing an explosives belt is en route to Jerusalem and the Palestinians fail to stop him, then we will," the official added.

Other issues expected to be raised include the release of Palestinian security prisoners incarcerated in Israel.

It is the first meeting between the two since August 2003, when similar steps were brought to an abrupt halt when a suicide bomber blew up a Jerusalem bus, killing 18 and wounding over 100. A second meeting between Mofaz and Dahlan is expected to take place some time later this week.

Earlier on Saturday, Palestinian Cabinet secretary Hassan Abu Libdeh said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and recently-elected Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will hold their first summit during the second week of February.

In preparation, Israeli and Palestinian officials will hold a series of meetings this week. "The date will be set according to the results of the meetings this week," Abu Libdeh said. "It could be on the seventh, eighth or ninth of February."

The summit would be the highest-level direct contacts between the sides since the signing of the road map peace plan by Sharon and then prime minister Abbas in June 2003.

In a major policy reversal in the Gaza Strip after more than four years of fighting, IDF Chief of General Staff Moshe Ya´alon ordered the army on Friday to reduce offensive operations in Gaza to a minimum in order to enable PA forces to carry out their mission.

The IDF will reportedly halt all offensive missions in areas where Palestinian policemen have deployed to prevent the launchings of Kassam rockets and mortar shells at southern Israel and Gaza settlements.

In addition, in accordance with security assessments and subordinate to Palestinian security deployment to stop terror attacks at crossings, the IDF will make arrangements to reopen the Erez, Karni and Rafah crossings next week for the benefit of the residents of the Gaza Strip.

Israel opened the Karni crossing in the northern Gaza Strip for several hours on Friday morning, during which merchandise was exported from the Gaza Strip.

The site has been closed for the past two weeks after a deadly attack at the crossing claimed the lives of six Israelis.

The decision was reached following a security evaluation and as an Israeli gesture towards the Palestinians. (© 1995-2005, The Jerusalem Post 01/29/05)

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