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Israel to Reduce West Bank Military Operations


Israeli officials said Monday they will reduce military operations in the occupied West Bank. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem, despite Palestinian calls to do so, Israeli officials say they will not extend the terms of a truce, now in effect in the Gaza Strip, to the West Bank.

New regulations that take effect immediately say only regional or division-level Israeli commanders can order military raids in the West Bank to arrest Palestinians. Previously, brigade-level commanders could initiate such operations.

Israeli officials say the new regulations are aimed at easing tensions, and avoiding incidents that could jeopardize a week-old ceasefire between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

On Sunday, Israel's Cabinet issued orders to Israeli artillery units not to fire at Palestinian militants launching Qassam rockets from the Gaza Strip. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told reporters that, while limited rocket fire is continuing, Israel values the ceasefire, and hopes it can be broadened into a more comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians.

"Unfortunately, it (ceasefire) is violated on a daily basis, but we hope that we can use this window of opportunity to promote something that will be more than something that is only a ceasefire," Livni said.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he is running out of patience with the continuing rocket fire, but he said Monday that Israel will continue to show restraint - hoping to further the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.

Palestinian officials say arrests of Palestinians in the West Bank are threatening the ceasefire. Several Palestinian militant groups are threatening to retaliate, if the arrests continue. Israeli forces say they arrested at least 15 Palestinian militants between late Sunday and early Monday in operations targeting militants.

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