Israeli troops remain stationed in and around the Jewish neighborhoods, as well as in the Abu Sneineh and Haret a-Sheikh hills surrounding Hevron's Jewish community.
Most of Hevron, known as H-1, was originally abandoned to the PA over six years ago by the Netanyahu government, under what became known as the "Hevron Accords." Israeli forces were restationed in all of Hevron last spring, following the Passover massacre at the Park Hotel in Netanya in which 30 people were massacred. The forces were removed eight months ago by then-Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, and returned once again to Hevron following the massacre of 12 soldiers and fighters last November 15.
Until a few days ago, Israeli troops had standing orders to fire at any armed Arabs seen anywhere in Hevron. Those orders have now been revised, and the troops stationed in the Jewish areas have now been warned that armed Arabs may in fact be Palestinian police. In addition, Hevron military commanders may not re-enter the H-1 zone to 'apprehend a terrorist' unless they first notify the PA.
A Hevron spokesman issued the following statement:
"Israel has again abandoned Hevron - this time, sneaking out, with no press and no notification, like thieves in the night. The last time Israel abandoned the H-1 area of Hevron to the terrorists, following the Succot holiday last winter, the result was an eight-month bloodbath, beginning with the murder of twelve Israelis, including Hevron military commander Col. Dror Weinberg... Since Nov. 15, 27 Israelis have been murdered by Arab terrorists in and around Hevron. In addition, suicide-genocide terrorists have [originated in] Hevron and perpetrated attacks throughout Israel.
"How does this government, promising security to Israeli citizens, dare to remove Israeli military forces from one of the largest terrorist reservoirs in Israel? How does this government dare to abandon Israelis, living and visiting in Hevron? ... How can the National Union and the National Religious Party continue to afford legitimacy to the Sharon-Mofaz catastrophe?
"Ariel Sharon - Shaul Mofaz: You are playing with fire - your are toying with the lives of your citizens. You personally will be held responsible for all blood spilled as a result of your decisions... Repent before it is too late, before more Jewish lives are lost, before more men, women and children are maimed. Move back into Gaza, into Bethlehem, in Hevron. Stop conceding to the terrorists. Stop this madness!!!"