Accessibility links

Israel Offers to Withdraw Forces from Gaza - 2002-08-06

Israel is offering a plan to withdraw its forces from the Gaza Strip if the Palestinian leadership will take over security arrangements there.

Security arrangements were the main agenda item during a meeting late Monday between Israeli Defense Minister Benyamin Ben-Eliezer and top Palestinian officials, including Interior Minister Abdel Razaq al-Yahya. It was the first high-level meeting between the two sides in months.

Mr. Ben-Eliezer reportedly proposed a phased withdrawal of Israeli forces, starting with the Gaza Strip and possibly a few West Bank towns, if the Palestinians are ready to take over security arrangements there and prevent attacks against Israelis. Mr. Ben-Eliezer said the two sides will continue their discussion of the issue.

One Palestinian official described the meeting as a good start and agreed that talks would continue.

The Israeli withdrawal proposal came as the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution demanding that Israel withdraw its forces to their positions prior to the September 2000 Palestinian uprising, or intifada. The resolution also called for an end to military incursions, and all acts of violence, terror, provocation, incitement and destruction.

As Israeli and Palestinian security officials met in Jerusalem, Israeli forces continued their crackdown on suspected militants. Israeli troops shot and killed a wanted Palestinian militant leader and another man in an operation in the West Bank. Security sources say Ali Ajouri and another Palestinian were shot while fleeing from Israeli troops.

Ali Ajouri is widely regarded as the head of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in the West Bank. Israel accuses him of organizing several attacks, including a suicide bomb attack on the central bus station in Tel Aviv last month.

Also late Monday, Israeli helicopters fired missiles and severely damaged a suspected weapons factory in the Gaza Strip. The owners of the factory denied the site was used to produce weapons.

In Jerusalem Tuesday, police arrested a 16-year-old Palestinian girl on suspicion of planning to carry out a suicide bombing.

Also in Jerusalem, Israel's Supreme Court has turned down an appeal by 43 Palestinian families whose homes have been slated for destruction by the Israeli army. The homes belong to the families of Palestinian militants accused of involvement of attacks against Israelis.

Israeli troops also continue to enforce strict curfews and travel restrictions in most Palestinian populations centers.