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Transition Continues in Bethlehem - 2002-08-28


The Israeli army said Tuesday it would relax restrictions on allowing some Palestinians from Bethlehem to enter Israel. This after “relative quiet” took hold in the West Bank city under a new security plan.

Under the plan, Israel ended its military operations in Bethlehem last week, with Palestinian police moving in to ensure order. But Israeli troops remained on the city’s outskirts – underscoring the deal’s fragility. Elsewhere in the West Bank the agreement has yet to take hold.

On Monday, Israeli troops clashed with Palestinians in Ramallah, and raided the refugee camp in Jenin.

On Tuesday, Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat expressed displeasure at the lack of progress.

SAEB EREKAT, PALESTINIAN CABINET MINISTER
“Unfortunately, the Israeli government chose the path of more incursions, more occupations, assassinations, demolition of homes, collective punishments.”

But Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled was more optimistic.

JONATHAN PELED, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN
“As long as we can keep talking and keep a positive atmosphere in the talks, I think that we are making, even if it’s a small step, we’re still making small steps in the right direction.”

At the state department in Washington, spokesman Richard Boucher welcomed the steps the two sides have started to take.

RICHARD BOUCHER, U.S. STATE DEPT SPOKESMAN
“We have welcomed the cooperation that they’ve started to establish, in terms of on-the-ground efforts, meetings of local security people. And we continue to welcome – we are pleased to see that they continue to take steps in those directions.”

In separate developments Tuesday, a Palestinian man arrested in connection with planning a bombing attack at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University last month was remanded in Jerusalem’s district court.

And Israeli forces said they had arrested a group of Israeli Arabs accused of helping a suicide bomber blow up a bus, earlier this month.

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