Israel puts West Bank security transfer on hold amid new shelling in Gaza (AFP-FRANCE PRESSE) RAMALLAH, West Bank 02/01/05 5:41 PM ET)
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RAMALLAH, West Bank (AFP) - Israel put the transfer of security
control in parts of the West Bank on hold as a new volley of mortar
attacks by Palestinian militants in Gaza further undermined a
Palestinians had been preparing to take control in the city of
Ramallah, as well as Qalqilya, Jericho and Tulkarem on Tuesday but
talks between Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz and former
Palestinian security minister Mohammed Dahlan on the issue Monday
night broke up without agreement.
Dahlan told reporters no date for a transfer had been agreed and
that he would meet with Mofaz again on Thursday "to conclude an
agreement on all the points of understanding."
Israel had appeared ready to hand over responsibility to the
Palestinians in parts of the West Bank after they had managed to put
a halt to attacks by militant groups in the Gaza Strip.
However, a spate of mortar shelling by the radical Islamist group
Hamas on Monday, in response to the killing of a Palestinian
schoolgirl, and further attacks on Tuesday have underlined the
limitations of the Palestinian forces.
Israeli sources said Mofaz had told Dahlan there would be no
transfers in the West Bank until there was a complete halt to the
mortar attacks in Gaza.
While Hamas claimed responsibility for the attacks on Monday, the al-
Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Islamic Jihad said Tuesday that they had
fired shells at a settlement in northern Gaza.
Israeli military sources also said three mortar rounds had hit
settlements in southern Gaza Tuesday but without causing injuries.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
New Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas had managed to persuade groups
such as Hamas to observe an unofficial "cooling down" period but
eight militant factions issued a statement on Monday night
threatening to resume attacks.
Dahlan, however, warned that the Palestinian Authority would not
allow "any group to just do what it wants and impose their will on
the Palestinian leadership."
Israel is adamant that its troops were not responsible for the
killing of the schoolgirl, suggesting that she may have been shot by
celebratory gunfire from Palestinians who were returning from the
Muslim pilgrimage in Mecca.
"Immediately after the news of the death, we opened an inquiry which
has established that our forces did not open fire at any time on
Monday in the area," an army spokesman told AFP.
Israeli security sources said Palestinian officials told their
Israeli counterparts late Tuesday that a Palestinian man from Rafah
was arrested by Palestinian security services suspected of opening
fire in the school where the girl was hit.
Palestinian security officials denied this, insisting the girl was
killed by Israeli soldiers.
In an interview with a Russian newspaper published Tuesday, Abbas
made an unprecedented criticism of his late predecessor Yasser
Arafat, saying "there were black stains in his policy."
"In the West, he (Arafat) was viewed completely differently than by
us. They called him a terrorist, charged him with resisting reform
and not fulfilling his commitments in negotiations. He was seen as a
dictator," he told the Kommersant daily.
"We of course cannot ignore this negative side" to Arafat´s rule, he
Meanwhile, Israeli public television reported that Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon would meet with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar
Suleiman Wednesday amid setbacks to the growing rapprochement
between Israel and the Palestinians.
The previously unannounced meeting will be devoted to the
latest "difficulties" between Israel and the Palestinians, the
Egypt has traditionally played a key role in the Middle East peace
process. (Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse. 02/01/05)
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