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IDF Chief of Staff Visits Bethlehem

PA reports Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi was in Bethlehem Sunday. IDF source confirms visit to Arutz Sheva, says he met with top PA commanders.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 10/3/2010, 7:10 PM / Last Update: 10/3/2010, 9:31 PM

Flash 90

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Asheknazi visited the Palestinian Authority-controlled city of Bethlehem on Sunday and met with senior commanders of the PA armed police forces. The visit was originally published in PA media, and was confirmed by an IDF source who spoke with Arutz Sheva's Hebrew-language news service on condition of anonymity.

Senior PA city official Abed el-Fateh Khameil told media that Ashkenazi had toured the Nativity Church, and had met with the commander of the regional PA forces, Sulieman Amran, and other senior police officials.

The IDF has declined to respond to reports.

The PA is banned under existing agreements with Israel from having an army, and does not officially have soldiers. However, it has a large “special force” that is armed and trained by the United States and is intended to fight terror. The PA special forces plan to have armored vehicles in the near future.

Some members of the special forces are terrorists themeselves, who were offered the chance to get off Israel's “wanted” list under former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert if they would renounce terrorism and turn in their weapons.

Israel has withdrawn its forces from some PA cities as a “good-will gesture,” leaving the PA in charge of fighting terrorism in those areas. IDF checkpoints and roadblocks near the cities were taken down. In June it was reported that Israel was considering expanding the model to include more cities.