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Palestinian Police Assigned to Guard Gaza-Israel Border


Hundreds of Palestinian security forces took up position across northern Gaza Friday to prevent militant attacks against Israeli citizens. The move, coordinated with the Israeli military, could help ease tensions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and clear the way for a return to negotiations.

Palestinian officials say nearly 3000 paramilitary police will be deployed by Sunday.

Armed security guards are inspecting cars headed towards Israel and patrolling border areas used by militants to launch rocket strikes against nearby Israeli towns.

The effort appears to satisfy, at least for now, a key Israeli demand that newly elected Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, crack down on the militant attacks.

But Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath says Palestinian forces alone cannot guarantee an end to the violence.

"No cease-fire in the world can succeed if only one party maintains it, the two parties have to maintain it," said Minister Shaath.

Palestinian security forces have not been deployed along the border since clashes with the Israeli military in 2000.

The Palestinian operation Friday was coordinated with the Israeli military during a rare joint security meeting late Wednesday night.

Those talks ended an Israeli ban on contacts with Palestinian officials, imposed after militants killed six Israeli civilians at a crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip last week.

The Israeli military leaders are now praising the Palestinian security effort. Israel has also backed away from a threatened large-scale military raid into Gaza.

But the army insists it will respond with force if militants are able to resume their attacks.

Mr. Abbas met with militant leaders this week to try and secure a ceasefire agreement. No truce has been declared but Palestinian officials say the various sides could be nearing a deal.

Meanwhile a relative calm has been restored to Gaza. There have been no militant attacks since Wednesday and the Israeli army reopened the Rafah Crossing connecting Gaza to Egypt.

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