Halts West Bank handover amid repeated cease-fire violations

By Aaron Klein

Israel announced yesterday it would not hand over any more West Bank towns to Palestinian security forces until their government acts against terror groups.

The move follows continued Palestinian violations of a cease-fire agreement signed in February.

Palestinians voiced disappointment over the decision, which came at a meeting of Israel’s security Cabinet.

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called the Israeli move ‘‘a very unfortunate approach and decision.’’ He said the Palestinians received “pledges” from violent groups that they will halt violence and claimed a deal had been struck to collect terrorists’ weapons.

But Israel has expressed disappointment at what it calls repeated violations of a cease-fire agreement announced in Egypt Feb. 8 by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
There have since been more than 200 rocket and mortar attacks against Jewish communities in Gaza, a suicide bombing and several attempted bombings attacks.

Earlier this week, Israeli forces arrested an Islamic Jihad terrorist reportedly planning a suicide bombing to take place in Israel this week. The militant was apprehended in Talkum, a West Bank town released to Palestinian security control in March.

Security sources also report Palestinians have been smuggling heavy weaponry from Egypt into Gaza’s Rafah region with the assistance of Hamas and Palestinian intelligence.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been approximately 30 incidents of smuggling from Egypt’s Sinai region, some to the Gaza Strip and some to the Negev, sources say. In that time, weapons brought into Gaza include approximately 1,000 rifles, dozens of RPG launchers, about 150 handguns, five anti-aircraft shoulder missiles and tens of thousands of bullets.

“The weapons are being smuggled with the help of Hamas and Palestinian forces through tunnels in Rafah. The Palestinian Authority claims to have shut down the tunnels, and they did close some, but others are open, and they are actively helping the smugglers,” said a source.

Additionally, Hezbollah, at the direction of Syria, maintains a terror apparatus of hundreds of Palestinian militants in the West Bank receiving full-time salaries from the Lebanese group, sources say. They say Palestinian security intercepted a series of communications, including phone calls and e-mails, between Hezbollah and West Bank terrorists indicating Hezbollah had been trying to recruit suicide bombers to carry out attacks that would sabotage the cease-fire agreement.