Palestinian policemen in Bethlehem on Tuesday prevented a group of armed youths from firing at the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo. The incident was reported to Ha'aretz by a resident of Beit Jala.
The man said that the youths, apparently members of Fatah, had assembled close to the Orthodox club, but had been surprised by several policemen who were in the vicinity and immediately told them to disperse.
The number of Palestinian policemen in the streets of Bethlehem and the surrounding villages has been growing daily over the past week since IDF troops withdrew from the city.
This is in keeping with Palestinian assessments that despite disappointment at Israel's decision to freeze the "Gaza-and-Bethelehem-First" plan, the Palestinian Authority and its interior minister, Palestinian Authority Interior Minister Abdel Razek Yehiyeh, were determined to stand by their commitments.
In the Gaza Strip, Palestinian policemen are now manning positions destroyed by the IDF over the past two years, particularly on roads leading to settlements and army bases. Palestinian drivers complained Wednesday that they now have to stop and undergo two checks, first at a Palestinian roadblock and then at an Israeli one.
Opposition sources blamed the PA for keeping its promises to Israel while Israel was not upholding the terms of the understandings. According to Palestinian security sources, however, the new deployment is required for internal Palestinian needs.
Ben-Eliezer delays Yehiyeh meetingCiting ongoing violence in the Gaza Strip, Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer announced Wednesday morning that he was postponing his meeting with Yehiyeh, which had been scheduled for later in the day in Tel Aviv.
Ben-Eliezer referred specifically to the mortar attack overnight in Gaza, in which a shell landed on the roof of a home in one of the settlements in the Strip, causing extensive damage but not inflicting any injuries.
"The defense minister has made it clear to the Palestinians that he expects from them vigorous action to halt terrorism and violence, as well as smuggling by sea and on land," a ministry statement said. It added, however, that Ben-Eliezer "intends to continue" with the security agreement.
Israel Radio reported the Palestinians saying that nobody had told them officially that the meeting was off, and that they had only heard the news through the media.
Defense sources said that Ben-Eliezer had been expected to tell Yehiyeh at the meeting that the time is not yet ripe for an IDF redeployment in the West Bank city of Hebron. But the sources added that Ben-Eliezer has been encouraged by the quiet in Bethlehem.
While there has been rhetoric on both sides about the plan being frozen or canceled, Yehiyeh met with PA security forces chiefs Tuesday and told them that the plan is moving ahead, and that he is determined to conduct the reform of the security forces.
Defense Ministry sources said Ben-Eliezer had also planned to tell Yehiyeh to disregard reports in the Israeli press about Israel backing down from the plan and that its progress is dependent on the efforts made by the PA to prevent terror.
Yehiyeh has so far failed to persuade the Palestinian militias to lay down their weapons. After a series of meetings with the leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant groups in the Gaza Strip last week, Yehiyeh published a call for these groups to abandon armed struggle.
His call, however, fell on deaf ears, with the Islamic groups saying they had no intention of halting attacks, and the united intifada leadership issuing its own call, to the Palestinian Authority, to cease talks with Israeli security officials on the 'Gaza First' plan.
U.S. envoy Satterfield arrives in IsraelSpecial U.S. envoy David Satterfield arrived in Israel on Wednesday for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials.
Satterfield has already met Palestinian Cabinet Minister and chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, and is scheduled to meet with Palestinian Finance Minister Salim Fayad.
The U.S. envoy will also meet with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter.
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