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Palestinians Take Over Security in Bethlehem.

By VOA News Israeli forces have left the West Bank city of Bethlehem and turned over security control to the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian police re-entered Bethlehem's streets Wednesday, shortly after the last Israeli troops on patrol moved to the city's outskirts. Under a deal finalized Tuesday, Israeli troops will keep a checkpoint on the main road leading into Bethlehem, and control the area around a religious site, Rachel's Tomb. But Israeli forces will no longer be allowed to enter the city and arrest militants as they have often done in the past. The handover is seen as another boost for the internationally backed "road map" plan for Middle East peace. On Sunday, Israeli and Palestinian officials carried out a similar transfer of security control in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel Radio quoted a senior Israel Defense Forces officer as saying the 33-month Palestinian uprising may be over. The unidentified officer says Israel can consider itself the winner of the conflict, and that Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas appears to understand that terrorism is a mistake.

The United States said it would resume direct economic aid to the Palestinian Authority. Jeffrey Feltman, the acting U.S. consul-general in Arab East Jerusalem, said Washington would give $30 million to rebuild infrastructure damaged by Israeli military actions.

Feltman said the aid goes "hand in hand" with what he called the Palestinian Authority's "aggressive pursuit of an ambitious reform agenda." For years, the United States has avoided giving money to the Palestinian Authority and long-time Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat. Instead, Washington channeled its assistance to the Palestinians through private groups and the United Nations.

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Publication:Israel Faxx
Date:Jul 3, 2003
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