Palestinians: Israel to leave 4 West Bank cities (CNN) GAZA CITY Avivit Dalgoshen contributed 01/30/05 10:09 AM EST (1509 GMT)
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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Israeli forces will withdraw from four West Bank
cities this week and hand over security control to the Palestinian
Authority, Palestinian officials said Sunday.
The pullout is expected on Wednesday from Ramallah, Tulkarem,
Qalqilya and Jericho, the officials said.
Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz stopped short of confirming the
report. After a meeting Saturday night with Palestinian security
chief Mohammad Dahlan, he told Israeli radio on Sunday, "It is a
matter of days."
"We haven´t concluded yet which towns or when," Mofaz said. "It is
very possible that in some of the Palestinian towns, the handing over
of responsibility will happen in the coming days. We are due to meet
again to finalize the issues."
The meeting between Mofaz and Dahlan was positive, a Dahlan aide told
The two discussed confidence-building steps such as the possible
release of Palestinian prisoners and a proposed end to Israel´s
arrests and targeted killings of Palestinians.
They also discussed the proposed meeting on February 8 between
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas.
Thawing relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority
followed Abbas´ election this month to replace the late Palestinian
leader Yasser Arafat, who died of an unknown illness in November.
Sharon said Thursday night he believes the Palestinians have created
conditions for a "historic breakthrough" in relations. "It seems that
there is a positive approach [by Palestinians] regarding the war on
terrorism and advancing the diplomatic process," Sharon said during a
speech in Tel Aviv.
In addition, Sharon has proposed a "disengagement plan" that calls
for the evacuation of all 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza, and the
pullout of Israeli military forces deployed to defend them. Four
small Jewish settlements in the northern West Bank would also be
evacuated under Sharon´s plan.
Reining in of militants by the Palestinian Authority has been a key
Israeli demand before resumption of peace talks. Abbas has deployed
thousands of Palestinian security forces along the Israeli-Gaza
border to prevent terrorist attacks.
Ha´aretz has reported that Abbas has reached a provisional agreement
with the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas to participate in a cease-
fire of terrorist attacks against Israeli targets.
Hamas´ military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, has acknowledged
responsibility for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians as
well as attacks against the Israeli military. Israel and the U.S.
State Department consider Hamas a terrorist organization.
As for Israel, it has told Palestinian officials it´s stopping the
targeted killings of senior members of Palestinian militant groups,
Israeli sources said Wednesday.
Ending such killings by Israel has been a key demand by Palestinian
militants in exchange for a cease-fire on Israeli targets.
Meanwhile, the date of the tentatively scheduled meeting between
Sharon and Abbas depends on the outcome of preliminary talks between
officials representing both leaders, Abbas´ spokesman, Hassan Abu
Libdeh, has said.
On Saturday, David Baker, an official in Sharon´s office, said, "The
meeting would be in order to make further progress, and it´s
contingent on Palestinians continuing to fight terror."
Sharon and Abbas met in 2003 during a push toward a U.S.-led peace
plan that later stalled. Abbas served as prime minister under Arafat
at the time. Journalist Avivit Dalgoshen contributed to this report.
(© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP. 01/30/05)
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