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Rafah crossing reopens (JERUSALEM POST) By MARGOT DUDKEVITCH 02/01/05)Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1107141483333 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
As senior Israeli and Palestinian officials are meeting to discuss confidence-building measures between the two sides, Israel on Tuesday opened the Rafah crossing, in the southern Gaza Strip.

The crossing was closed to passage to and from Egypt following a deadly attack on an IDF post, which cost the lives of five Israeli soldiers. Palestinians have since then pleaded with Israel to reopen the border crossing.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz announced Monday night that Israel also intends to soon reopen the Erez crossing, in the northern Gaza Strip.

Gaza´s third crossing, Karni, which was also the scene of a recent deadly attack, would remain closed for the time being.

In a meeting with top PA security advisor Muhammad Dahlan Monday night, Mofaz stressed that any progress in the West Bank - including a possible handover of West Bank cities - would be directly connected to the situation in the Gaza Strip.

"Deploying troops on the ground is one thing, but to act [against terror] is another. I expect you to do what is necessary, now is the time for actions on the ground," Mofaz told Dahlan.

For the second time in three days, Mofaz and Dahlan mulled over the final preparations for the transfer of Ramallah, Tulkarm, Kalkilya, Bethlehem and Jericho to Palestinian security control.

During the meeting, Mofaz told Dahlan that the deployment of PA forces in Gaza was insufficient. We demand, the defense minister stressed, that you also take action against the terror squads. Any progress in negotiations with the Palestinians, he said, depends on cessation of terrorism and security calm.

Mofaz demanded to know how the PA intended to deal with the mortar shell and Kassam fire. He insisted upon immediate and unilateral action by the PA, and stressed that there were still terrorist cells that continue to fire missiles at Israeli targets.

The defense minister demanded the PA to take action on several fronts. First, a committed crackdown on terrorist infrastructure in Gaza, in addition to a cessation of terror, which would include all groups, including the small ones; rounding up and interrogating suspected terrorists; and collecting illegal arms and shutting down arms manufacturing factories.

The two discussed the release of Palestinian security prisoners that may occur before a meeting between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas scheduled for next week.

Israeli security officials, however, said the demand to release prisoners is highly unlikely to be met. "Up until now the release of security prisoners has been in accordance with a cabinet decision that stipulates that no one with blood on their hands will be freed. All those terrorists tried in Israel and serving life sentences or long prison terms for their involvement in the murder of Israelis will remain behind bars, not only the defense establishment but also the Shin Bet support this," an official said.

According to Prison Service officials, of the 4250 security prisoners detained in its facilities, 70% "have blood on their hands." Currently there are 4428 security detainees incarcerated in military facilities.

Mofaz and Dahlan also spoke of confidence-building measures, including easing up the travel restrictions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Before the meeting, a senior security official said that the handover of security control in West Bank cities would be gradual and not all at once.

The meeting between Mofaz and Dahlan took place a day after sporadic violence erupted in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. After days of relative calm, a barrage of eight mortar shells was fired at settlements in Gush Katif on Monday afternoon. Five were fired at Neveh Dekalim and another three at other settlements.

No one was injured but a house sustained damage in Neveh Dekalim, the largest community in the Gush Katif settlement bloc.

Sarit Cohen said her family was about to sit down and eat when a shell penetrated the roof exploding inside. "Luckily the shell exploded inside the roof and no one was wounded," she told reporters.

Hamas claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they were in response to the shooting of a Palestinian girl earlier Monday.

Late Monday, Israel said jubilant Palestinian rifle fire celebrating the return of pilgrims from Mecca, killed the Palestinian girl, Nuran Dib, 10.

UNRWA declared that the gunfire had come from Israeli-controlled territory but did not directly implicate the IDF in the shooting.

Meanwhile, an Israeli citizen was lightly wounded late Monday after a Molotov cocktail was hurled at his car near the West Bank settlement of Migdalim. The man´s car was completely burnt.

Also on Monday, a soldier was lightly wounded when a pipe bomb was thrown at an IDF near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

Elsewhere, shots were fired at IDF troops near Jenin and Kadim in the West Bank. No injuries were reported.

An explosive device was discovered Monday evening next to the Tunnel Road, which leads from Jerusalem to Gush Etzion. The road was closed for a short while.

Several Israeli cars were also stoned on the road next to Beitar Ilit Monday night. There were no injuries but there was some damage to the vehicles. (© 1995-2005, The Jerusalem Post 02/01/05)

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