Hebron
IDF soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron Photo by Ofen Hagai / Archive
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AP
An IDF soldier making an arrest in Hebron, Oct. 2010. Photo by AP

The Israel Defense Forces is preparing for the possibility that soldiers may not be able to enter Palestinian cities at will, something the Palestinian Authority has been requesting for some time. Military sources told Haaretz they believe such a change would not significantly impact the security situation.

Officially, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for security in the cities defined as Area A in the Oslo agreements - Ramallah, Tul Karm, Qalqilyah, Nablus, Hebron, Bethlehem, Jenin and Jericho. However, the IDF carry out arrest raids there almost every night. The raids usually are held without incident, and Palestinian security forces avoid contact with the Israeli troops.

Nevertheless, the IDF is beginning to prepare for the possibility that soldiers will not be able to enter and leave Palestinian cities at will.

The Palestinian Authority has asked the IDF to avoid entering the cities several times recently, and it has the backing of the U.S. administration, which trains Palestinian Authority troops.

Officers in the IDF's Judea and Samaria division told Haaretz that the increasing cooperation with the Palestinian security forces, along with the Shin Bet security service's intelligence capabilities in the West Bank, meant the IDF could handle such a change.

"The security organizations control the cities well," one officer said, "and a terrorist who escapes into one of the cities will find it difficult to hide there."

The IDF has removed many of the West Bank checkpoints over the past year, but still has troops stationed at the entrances and exits of Palestinian cities.

After the latest shooting attacks, Palestinian security forces detained hundreds of Hamas activists, and IDF sources told Haaretz they believe much of Hamas' activity is now taking place outside the major cities.