- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2005

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli officials yesterday accepted a Palestinian plan to deploy hundreds of police officers to ensure quiet along the Gaza-Israel frontier, in the first act of security cooperation with Israel under Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli and Palestinian security officials said negotiations over the deployment were continuing, but the operation was expected to begin today.

Although the two sides appeared to be making progress, violence persisted. Two 13-year-old Palestinian boys were killed in separate clashes with Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Palestinian generals presented the Gaza deployment plan during a meeting with their Israeli counterparts late Wednesday, convened in a last-ditch effort to avert a threatened Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip. Israel has demanded that the Palestinians take action to stop repeated rocket and mortar fire at Israeli targets.

Mr. Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon are trying to defuse their first crisis, although the situation remains highly volatile.

Mr. Abbas has been holding talks with leaders of militant groups in the Gaza Strip since Tuesday, and his aides said he was nearing a truce deal with them. The militants say they are ready to halt attacks, provided Israel stops military operations — a promise that Israel has refused to make.

In Wednesday’s security meeting, Palestinian generals presented a detailed plan for stopping rocket fire and infiltrations of Palestinian militants into Israel.

“We told [Israeli generals] that we are arranging a plan to deploy the Palestinian security forces into both the northern and southern parts of Gaza,” Maj. Gen. Moussa Arafat, a Palestinian security chief, said. “In the first stage, it will be in the north, and then we will move into the south.”

Israeli security officials said about 1,000 Palestinian officers would be deployed today.

“We are facilitating it and coordinating it [the plan], so it will go forward,” one official said on the condition of anonymity.

Palestinian security commanders were meeting yesterday to complete preparations.

Israel broke off contacts with Mr. Abbas’ government last Friday after an attack killed six Israeli civilians at a Gaza-Israel crossing point. A Palestinian suicide bombing that killed an Israeli security agent at a Gaza checkpoint on Tuesday escalated tensions.

Gen. Arafat, the Palestinian security commander, said Israel had agreed to reopen some blocked roads in the Gaza Strip in exchange for the Palestinian deployment.

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