JERUSALEM Ñ The Palestinian Authority has redeployed its security
forces in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
Palestinian police and security forces have established positions and
launched patrols around Bethlehem. A formal handover of the city is
scheduled for later on Wednesday.
Israel's military has pledged not to enter Bethlehem to arrest suspected
Palestinian insurgents. The military had pulled out of the city in 2002, but
until Tuesday conducted daily patrols and searched for insurgents.
PA officials said they expect Israel to hand over other West Bank cities
and release prisoners over the next two weeks. They said the cities would
include Hebron, Jenin, Nablus and Ramallah Ñ where Israel maintains a
"We have said that the release of prisoners is an important element in
the peace between the two people," PA Prisoner Affairs Minister Hisham Abdul
PA officials said Israel refused a request to allow Palestinian security
forces in Bethlehem free movement to Hebron in the south. The officials said
the PA is pressing Israel to make Hebron the next city for the evacuation of
Israel has linked continuing military withdrawal from the West Bank and
Gaza Strip to a PA effort to collect unauthorized weapons and dismantle
Palestinian insurgency groups. Israel Security Agency director Avi Dichter
told a strategic seminar at Tel Aviv University on Tuesday that the test of
PA intentions will take place in mid-July when the PA is expected to collect
Palestinian insurgency operations continued on Wednesday. Israel's
military reported Palestinian fire toward foreign laborers employed by
Israel near the northern West Bank city of Tulkarm. A security guard was
injured. Palestinian insurgents also detonated a bomb near Israeli-employed
laborers near the city of Kalkilya. Nobody was injured.
PA officials said Israel has also agreed to lift the siege from the
headquarters of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The officials said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has agreed to allow
Arafat to commute between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. At this point,
officials said, Sharon would not allow Arafat to leave for abroad.