Accessibility links

Israel Stops Troop Withdrawals

Israel has announced that there will be no further withdrawals of its troops until the Palestinian Authority takes more steps to halt attacks by militant Palestinian groups.

The Israeli Army's head of central command, General Moshe Kaplinski, made the announcement after meeting Friday with his Palestinian counterpart, General Haj Ismail.

General Kaplinski says that there will be no further re-deployment of Israeli troops, until the Palestinian Authority carries out measures to control what he called the "terror activities of Palestinian groups".

The two officials met to discuss the timing of further troop pullbacks, following Israel's decision to withdraw from Bethlehem in the West Bank.

Israel had also agreed in principle to do the same in the Gaza Strip and also Hebron in the West Bank, and to allow the Palestinian security forces to take responsibility for security.

But the plans have been put on hold because of continuing violence.

In the Gaza Strip Friday, two Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli troops attempting to mount an attack against a Jewish settlement.

Dore Gold, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, says the incident underlines the need to proceed with caution. "This Palestinian infiltration effort either to Israeli settlements or into Israel itself are continuing day by day and Israel must do what is necessary, first and foremost, to protect its citizens from the threat of terrorism," he said.

While the phased withdrawal plan has been frozen, Israeli and Palestinian officials intend to continue meeting to discuss measures to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.