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Despite More Killings, IDF to Hand Bethlehem Over to PA

Despite an uspurge in terror, with four Jews killed in the past two weeks, Israel is planning on handing over Bethlehem to PA control. The IDF is opposed.
First Publish: 6/29/2005, 1:25 PM / Last Update: 6/28/2005, 5:43 PM

The decision to go ahead with the handover was finalized on Monday in the Prime Minister’s office. The IDF, citing the terrorist murder of four Israelis over the past two weeks, opposes the move, but has been ordered by the government to carry it out.

IDF officials have said that last Friday’s murder of two Jewish youngsters near Beit Hagai in southern Judea was facilitated by the government’s decision to remove
roadblocks in order to ease restrictions on Arab traffic.

Senior army commanders have warned that handing over another city to PA control - Tul Karem was handed over three months ago - would be interpreted by the PA as a form of Israeli acceptance of Palestinian terror, which shows no signs of abating.

IDF commanders also warned government officials that handing Bethlehem over to PA, under the present conditions, would turn that city into a refuge for terrorists who would exploit the absence of the IDF to launch terrorist attacks.

During the Oslo war, Bethlehem and its environs were used as bases for launching suicide attacks against Israelis. Arab terrorists also used the city’s proximity to Jerusalem to launch mortar attacks on the Gilo neighborhood. The attacks stopped only after the IDF retook the city during Operation Defensive Shield, which followed the April 2002 bombing of the Park Hotel in Netanya.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reportedly is going ahead with the handover in order to make good on his promise to PA chief Mahmoud Abbas last February in Sharm el-Sheikh. He promised at the time to roll back the IDF presence in Judea and Samaria and restore the security situation that existed prior to Operation Defensive Shield.

Before that operation, the PA was responsible for providing security and fighting terrorism in Arab populated cities in Judea and Samaria. Israel relinquished control of those cities following the implementation of the ill-fated Oslo Accords in 1995.