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Terror alert in Sharon region; PA takes over in Bethlehem

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  • Joseph M. Hochstein
    July 2, 2003 Terror alert in Sharon region; PA takes over in Bethlehem By Roni Singer and Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondents
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 2, 2003
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      July 2, 2003
      Terror alert in Sharon region; PA takes over in Bethlehem
      By Roni Singer and Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondents

      Israeli security forces were placed on high alert Wednesday
      afternoon following a terrorist infiltration along the Green Line
      border, in the Sharon region.

      Large numbers of security forces have been deployed to the area
      in an effort to locate the terrorist. Roadblocks huave been set
      up around the towns of Kfar Sava, Rosh Ha'ayin and Petah Tikva,
      causing major traffic jams. Every individual entering or leaving
      these towns is subject to a search.

      The alert came less than an hour after Israel transfered
      security control in the West Bank city of Bethlehem to the
      Palestinian Authority on Wednesday, days after the PA assumed
      control in the Gaza Strip, as part of the
      internationally-brokered road map to Middle East peace.

      Palestinian police officers took to the streets of the city soon
      afterwards, to applause from local residents, as well as
      deploying in the neighboring towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahur.

      The IDF began pulling its troops out of Bethlehem lunchtime
      Wednesday, in anticipation of the handover, Israel Radio said.
      The troops will, however, maintain positions around the city.

      Israel Radio quoted a senior Palestinian police officer in
      Bethlehem as saying that his forces were starting at zero because
      they have only four vehicles available to them, after the IDF
      confiscated or destroyed 52 others.

      Details of the transfer were finalized Tuesday at a meeting
      between senior security officials from both sides.

      No major disagreements emerged during the meeting, which was
      headed on the Israeli side by the IDF's commander in the West
      Bank, Brigadier General Gadi Eisencott, and on the Palestinian
      side by General Haj Ismail, the commander of the National
      Security Service in the West Bank.

      However, Israel did reject one Palestinian request: that Route
      60, the West Bank's main north-south artery, which runs from
      Hebron in the south through Bethlehem and eventually north to
      Nablus, be reopened to Palestinian traffic.

      Top IDF officer: intifada may soon be over A senior Israel
      Defense Forces said Wednesday that the end of the intifada may be
      near and it will signal a victory for Israel. The top-ranking
      officer said that Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is
      serious about the measures he is taken and understands that
      terrorism is a mistake, Israel Radio reported.

      He added that he hopes that the Palestinians will put a stop to
      almost all terror attacks. The IDF has already started to reduce
      its presence in the territories, he added, and has released a
      number of reserve battalions from duty.

      Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the weekly cabinet meeting
      Wednesday that the coming weeks will be critical and the defense
      establishment is closely following whether the Palestinians are
      fulfilling their part of the agreements.

      An Israeli security guard was lightly injured Wednesday morning
      in a shooting attack on workers building the security fence close
      to the West Bank town of Tul Karm. A bomb also exploded close to
      the fence near the town of Qalqilyah while a Palestinian opened
      fire on IDF troops in Nablus; no one was injured in either

      Also Wednesday morning, IDF troops arrested six wanted
      Palestinians in a number of West Bank towns. Four of the men
      arrested are wanted by the IDF for alleged involvement in
      terrorist activities while two others were brought in for

      The transfer of authority in Bethlehem will not require a major
      redeployment of IDF troops, since the army has no fixed presence
      in Bethlehem. However, the move will prevent the IDF from
      entering the city to arrest wanted men, which it has done freely
      until now. Israel will continue to control the area around
      Rachel's Tomb, as stipulated in the Oslo Accords.

      Yedioth Ahronoth's ynet Internet site quoted Palestinian sources
      Wednesday as saying that Israel could pull out of the West Bank
      city of Ramallah, to which PA Chairman Yasser Arafat has been
      confined for over a year, as early as next week.

      PA Information Minister Nabil Amar told the Voice of Palestine
      radio station Wednesday morning that the Palestinians are ready
      to take over in any area from which Israel withdraws in the near
      future. He also said that Palestinian Security Minister Mohammed
      Dahlan may meet with Mofaz in the coming days.

      In Gaza, the transfer of authority that began Monday has yet to
      run into any major hitches. Although there have been occasional
      shooting incidents - including three directed at IDF outposts in
      the Gush Katif settlement bloc Tuesday and an attempt to fire a
      mortar at settlements in the area - there have been no conflicts
      involving Palestinian traffic on roads there. The Palestinians
      have been gradually deploying through the territory handed over
      to them, and are preparing to reopen the Tiska'ot Road, east of
      the settlement of Kfar Darom.
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