Thursday, June 25, 2009

IDF to radically reduce army presence in 5 West Bank cities by Yaakov Katz

Israel has decided to radically reduce its military presence in the West Bank cities of Kalkilya, Ramallah, Jericho, Jenin, and Bethlehem as part of an effort to bolster the Palestinian Authority, defense officials said on Thursday.

The decision was announced at a Wednesday meeting between IDF officers and their Palestinians counterparts in Bethlehem. The meeting was attended by the head of the IDF Civil Administration Brig-Gen. Yoav Mordechai.

Defense officials said that the move was aimed at giving the Palestinians the ability to enforce law and order and crack down on Hamas and other terror elements independently without Israeli intervention. Nevertheless, the sources said that if there was intelligence regarding planned terror attacks against Israel, the IDF would not hesitate to operate within the cities to thwart those attacks.

In addition, the move was also connected to the continued deployment of Palestinian battalions trained by the United States security coordinator Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton in Jordan. Officials said a battalion of several hundred Palestinian soldiers recently returned from Jordan, and another battalion traveled to the country for training.

The officials said that the deployment of Dayton-trained battalions would continue in cooperation with the IDF.

Previous to the decision, the IDF would primarily dominate night-time security activities, while Palestinian security forces were permitted to operate almost exclusively during the day. However, following the decision, PA troops will operate during both the night and day, with Israeli troops only operating when urgent threats arise.

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