IDF to Ease Restrictions on West Bank Population From Monday

Alleviations are part of Israel's decision to treat the West Bank and Gaza Strip as different entities.

The Israel Defense Forces are expected to remove several barriers on roads between West Bank villages and ease checks at roadblocks from Monday, as part of the relaxation of restrictions that Israel has promised the Palestinians.

A security source said that the alleviations are in keeping with Israel's decision to handle the West Bank and the Gaza Strip differently, in terms of both military activity and the treatment of the population. Therefore, Israel decided not to suspend or cancel the removal of checkpoints in the West Bank because of the Qassam rocket fire from Gaza.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz also authorized an additional relaxation of restrictions: He has decided to allow Christian Palestinians from Gaza to visit Christian holy sites in the West Bank and permit Israeli Arabs to visit relatives in Palestinian territory, which Israelis are forbidden to enter.

But Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has decided not to release Palestinian prisoners, a customary gesture for the Muslim holiday of Id al-Adha.

The day after he met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas last weekend, Olmert, in response to Abbas's request, proposed releasing 20 to 30 prisoners at the cabinet meeting.

Ultimately, however, he decided not to release any prisoners before abducted soldier Gilad Shalit is returned.

On Thursday, Olmert is due to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm al-Sheikh.

In other developments, two members of Hamas's military wing were killed on Friday in an explosion in Gaza City, probably caused by the mishandling of firearms or explosives.

The two, Hussam al-Zamili, 23, and Mohammed al-Masri, 24, belonged to the section of the organization that is responsible for manufacturing weapons. A Hamas spokesman said that they were killed, and three others wounded, in the course of their work.

Several Qassam rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel on Friday. One landed in a residential part of a kibbutz in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council and damaged some of the houses.

The other rockets caused no damage. One was fired at a kibbutz and another at Ashkelon, though their landing sites were not found. At noon, two rockets were found in the Eshkol region.

Two other rockets were later observed being fired at the Karni crossing between Gaza and Israel, but were not found. Two more rockets were found north of Kisufim.