Text size

Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Palestinian Interior Minister Abdel Razak Yehiyeh are to meet today to discuss progress in the gradual cease-fire that has taken hold in Bethlehem, with the emphasis of their meeting expected to be deepening the cease-fire's hold in Gaza.

While there has been rhetoric on both sides about the plan being frozen or canceled, Yehiyeh met with PA security forces chiefs yesterday telling them the plan is moving ahead, and that he is determined to conduct the reform of the security forces.

While Ben-Eliezer is expected to tell Yehiyeh that it is premature to apply the same procedure to Hebron, according to defense sources, the defense minister is also expected to say Israel has been encouraged by the quiet in Bethlehem and has noted a sharp decline in violent incidents in Gaza.

Defense Ministry sources said Ben-Eliezer will 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.

The sources said there has been a marked decline in incidents in the Gaza Strip, but it's still not enough. "They could do a lot more, without getting into an internal conflict," said the source. "We'll encourage them to deploy forces in sensitive areas."

Meanwhile, yesterday, the IDF arrested seven members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in their Ramallah homes - including three senior activists. It was the third time that one of the men, Ali Jaradat, an official spokesman for the PFLP, has been taken into Israeli custody since Operation Defensive Shield: The first time, he was released after 10 days; the second time, some two weeks later, he was placed in administrative detention for three months.

Another of the senior PFLP members arrested yesterday is a member of the Palestinian National Council, attorney Bashir al-Hiri, who delivered a eulogy last week at the funeral of Mohammed Sa'adat, who was killed by an Israeli undercover unit and was the brother of the PFLP's former secretary-general, Ahmed Sa'adat.

Yesterday also saw the first anniversary of the liquidation of Ahmed Sa'adat's predecessor, Abu Ali Mustafa. Due to the curfew in place in Ramallah, the ceremonies planned by the organization to mark the day did not take place. Shin Bet security service sources said Jaradat and al-Hiri had been arrested in light of fears that the PFLP was planning a large terror strike yesterday to mark the assassination of Mustafa. Yehiyeh and PA Local Government Minister Saeb Erekat yesterday visited Ahmed Sa'adat, who is being held in a PA jail in Jericho under the eyes of Western security agents. Their visit ended a two day hunger strike by Sa'adat, demanding release.

Elsewhere, an IDF soldier was lightly injured by a Molotov cocktail in Nablus, while an explosive device was found and neutralized at the entrance to the Sha'are Tikva settlement.