Da Ha'aretz del 16/03/2005
Originale su http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArtVty.jhtml?itemNo=552537

Israel hands over Jericho to Palestinians

di Amos Harel, Arnon Regular, Yoav Stern

Israeli and Palestinian security commanders signed an agreement Wednesday on the handover of the West Bank city of Jericho to the Palestinian Authority, thus formalizing the Israel Defense Forces redeployment in the area.

A short time before the deal was signed, and after the IDF had already officially announced that it had transferred the city to Palestinian security control, a last-minute hitch put the much-delayed handover at risk.

Officers from both sides had arrived at a liaison office Wednesday afternoon to sign the handover protocol. The IDF brigade commander asked to sign the agreement said he would first have to consult with his commanders, and the Palestinians said they refused to accept control of Jericho until the protocol was signed.

IDF sources said the disagreement related to "technical" issues. The sources said the transfer of Jericho involves almost no concrete steps in the field because the IDF only enters the city when necessary.

The dispute was resolved and security commanders signed the agreement after making a few changes to the document.

Earlier Wednesday, the IDF moved one of its checkpoints around the West Bank city further north, giving Palestinians access to the city of Ramallah. The military changed regulations concerning its southern checkpoint as well, so that troops will from now on only inspect Palestinian cars leaving the city, and not those entering.

The main north-south highway running though the Jordan Valley, which will remain under Israeli control, will be opened to Palestinian vehicular traffic, Army Radio reported.

"From this moment we are resuming our control over the Jericho area," Palestinian security official General Ahmed Eid said seconds after shaking hands with his Israeli counterpart in a short ceremony on Jericho's outskirts.

Palestinians flashed V-for-victory signs and sat down to festive picnics in Jericho as cranes loaded concrete blocks onto Israeli trucks at the city's main entrance and the two sides' officers met to wrap up the details.

Israeli and Palestinian commanders toured the West Bank city Wednesday morning, as part of the run-up to the formal transfer of control.


Meanwhile, Egypt pressed Israel and the Palestinians to abide by their promises in the fragile peace process Wednesday as Palestinian leaders tried for a second day at a Cairo summit to persuade militant factions to declare a one-year cease-fire.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met Wednesday with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who faces a tough sell on the cease-fire.

In their talks, Mubarak and Abbas emphasized the "necessity to step up implementation of the commitments and the understandings between the two parties, the Israelis and the Palestinians" made at last month's Sharm el-Sheikh summit, a presidential spokesman said.

"Some of these commitments have been implemented, while others are waiting to be put into action," the spokesman said. "All these understandings should be implemented."

Hamas, meanwhile, says it is willing only to extend an informal period of "calm" in attacks - and that only on condition Israel halts military operations against Palestinians and frees Palestinian prisoners.

In an interview with the Arab newspaper Al-Hayat published Wednesday, Abbas said he hoped Hamas and Jihad would become purely "political organizations," participating in the Palestinian government, headed by Abbas, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Asked if that would mean the two groups would give up their weapons, Abbas said, "The decision of armed resistance should be taken by the Authority, so there is no need for there to be weapons here and there [with groups] that make the decision on their own."

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