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Palestinian Security Forces Prepare for Southern Gaza Deployment

Palestinian security forces are to begin deploying in the southern Gaza Strip this week - after already fanning out across the north to halt militant attacks against Israelis. The move comes as Israel and Palestinians appear close to a cease-fire and American Middle East envoy William Burns heads to the region to try to revive peace efforts.

There has been no official announcement and there might not be, but it appears Palestinians and Israelis are heading for at least a temporary calm.

After nearly a week of talks in Gaza, newly elected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has received promises from militant groups to halt attacks against Israelis.

The militants insist any temporary truce depends on Israel's willingness to halt military raids as well as arrests and targeted assassinations of Palestinian militants.

Israel has not made any such promises but has said its forces would respond in kind if calm prevails.

There has already been some tangible change on the ground with thousands of Palestinian police and security forces fanning out across the northern Gaza Strip to prevent militant attacks against Jewish settlements and nearby Israeli towns.

Israeli and Palestinian security officials continue to hold coordination talks and President Abbas says Palestinian forces are ready to move southward in Gaza. Mr. Abbas says new possibilities have opened up for Palestinian forces to deploy and bring security to new areas.

Those forces are expected to move into trouble spots around Rafah and Khan Younis in southern Gaza in the coming days.

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert welcomed Mr. Abbas's efforts, but says it is performance that counts. "We are very happy that he's making an effort. Now, he has to succeed," he said. "If he will not succeed, it's not a matter of [Israel] punishing him, but if he will not succeed then he's not in charge of the Palestinians, then it's useless. We hope he will [succeed]."

Israel says Mr. Abbas must stop terrorism, if there is to be any chance of resuming peace talks.

American Middle East envoy William Burns heads to the region this week to talk with Israeli and Palestinian officials about just that issue - how to revive negotiations under the internationally backed "road map" peace plan.