Israel to Conduct West Bank Hand Over (AP) By PETER ENAV TEL AVIV, ISRAEL 01/30/05 6:58 AM)
AP} ASSOCIATED PRESS
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TEL AVIV, Israel - Israel will transfer security control over several
West Bank towns to the Palestinians in coming days, Israel´s defense
minister said Sunday, hours after he met with a top Palestinian
security official to work out the details of Israel´s troop
A senior Palestinian security official said the first four towns -
Ramallah, Tulkarem, Qalqiliya and Jericho - would be handed over on
Wednesday, the latest sign of rapid change on the ground after more
than four years of fighting.
Israel has informed Palestinian officials that it is ready to
withdraw from all West Bank towns "within a very short period of
time" and to return to positions it held before the outbreak of
fighting in September 2000, said Hassan Abu Libdeh, a senior
Such a pullback is part of the long-stalled "road map" peace plan,
which both sides now say they are ready to implement.
Abu Libdeh said the pullback would include the removal of some of the
roadblocks that now ring Palestinian towns and severely disrupt daily
life in the West Bank.
Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat, meanwhile, said Feb. 8 is
emerging as a target date for a summit between Palestinian leader
Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a crucial step
toward ending hostilities and resuming peace talks. Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice is to arrive in the region two days earlier
for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
Abu Libdeh said the summit would be prepared in detail, and that a
decisive meeting of Abbas and Sharon aides would be held later this
week. "We want a very successful summit that will end with results,"
Palestinian officials said they expect a wide-ranging agenda that
will include the declaration of a formal truce, a large-scale release
of Palestinian prisoners and the resumption of peace negotiations.
Israel, however, appears reluctant to move from security concerns
into political matters.
The renewed peace hopes came after a sharp drop in violence. Abbas
has obtained a promise from armed groups to halt attacks on Israel,
and has deployed Palestinian police across the Gaza Strip. In
response, Israel´s army chief said he would halt military operations
in Gaza and scale them back in the West Bank.
On Sunday, a Palestinian man was killed by Israeli army fire along
the Gaza-Egypt border, Palestinian officials said. The military said
the man was deep inside a no-go zone, close to an Israeli army post
along a patrol road near the border, when troops shot him.
Late Saturday, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz met for nearly
five hours with Mohammed Dahlan, a Palestinian security chief, at a
Tel Aviv hotel to work out the details of a West Bank redeployment.
"We talked about handing over responsibility, as has started in the
Gaza Strip. We believe that in the next few days they will get
responsibility over other towns in the West Bank," Mofaz told Israel
Mofaz also said the Israeli military has changed its rules of
engagement. "Wherever the Palestinians operate, and operate
effectively, there will be no need for our counter-terrorist
activity," he said.
The minister later told the weekly meeting of Israel´s Cabinet that
in the past few days there was a drop of up to 75 percent in
Both sides said Mofaz and Dahlan held their talks in a good
atmosphere. Dahlan left without speaking to reporters.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia described the meeting
as "constructive." "We hope that when it comes to implementation, it
will be positive," Qureia added.
Palestinian officials said security commanders are to meet Monday to
work out the details of the handover.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said Saturday that Abbas
is "very close" to a political agreement with the militants that
would include a cease-fire, but added that a formal halt to violence
would depend on Israel.
He said Israel must formally accept a cease-fire, withdraw troops
from West Bank cities and release some of the 7,000 prisoners it is
holding to move forward with the accord.
"There is a temporary cease-fire and we are waiting for an Israeli
response," Shaath told The Associated Press by phone from Syria,
where he met government officials and the leader of Hamas. "If Israel
reciprocated, the cease-fire will turn from a temporary into a
Shaath said Egypt, a key mediator, has invited representatives of
militant groups to Cairo next week to continue the efforts. Four top
Egyptian security officials will visit Gaza on Thursday to review the
Palestinian police deployment and meet with leaders of militant
groups. (Copyright 2005 Associated Press. 01/30/05)
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