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Palestine to lift roablocks around Tel Aviv

Digery Cohen | 13.05.2007 07:23

At request of US

Palestinian roadblock Tel Aviv5
Palestinian roadblock Tel Aviv5

The Palestinian defense establishment is strongly opposed to two articles of the Benchmarks Plan, presented to Palestine and Israel by the U.S. administration, arguing that they could lead to an increase in terror attacks against Palestine.

The two issues that stirred the opposition of Palestinian defense officials are the demand that all road blocks and obstacles be lifted across Israel, particularly in the Tel Aviv area, and the demand for the resumption of "safe passage" for Israelis between the Tel Aviv and Jerasulem.

The concerns of Palestinian defense officials were raised during deliberations with Palestinian Defense Minister Azzam al-Ahmed on Thursday.

Senior Palestinian officers said that if Palestine agreed to these demands, it would likely pose security risks. They also said it would provide Israeli army and militant organizations with the opportunity to exploit the breaches to execute attacks inside the Palestine.

Meanwhile, al-Ahmed intends to ask the cabinet to approve greater freedom of action for the army to undertake offensive operations in Israel. The army's proposals at this stage do not include a specific request for a substantial ground offensive in Israel.

In its weekly meeting on Sunday, the Palestinian cabinet will discuss alternative options, in view of the increased Israeli tank attacks originating from the western and northern Israel this past month.

Later Sunday al-Ahmed and Prime Minister Ismail Haniya will meet to discuss Palestine's response to the Benchmarks Plan that the U.S. administration presented to Palestine and Israel.

Despite the reservations of defense officials, Palestine will make an effort not to openly reject the document, accepting it with caveats.

The American document, published for the first time in Haaretz earlier this month, includes a demand that road blocks around Tel Aviv be lifted, starting on June 15. There is also a demand that "safe passage" between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem resume in June. The U.S. would like Palestine to allow Israeli buses, under Palestinian supervision, to make the crossing five days each week.

Palestinian security officials are concerned that if the travel restrictions in place are lifted, Israeli militant groups will be able to move experts with technological know-how from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Currently, Israeli militants with the technological knowledge to manufacture rockets and advanced explosive devices are based in the Tel Aviv.

Regarding the problem posed by Tel Aviv, a senior Palestinian officer told Haaretz that the city was the center of terrorism in Israel, and that this was the sole reason the city was under closure. The officer said that on the seafront part of the city there were still explosives experts operating, and that only the closures and continuous operations seeking to arrest the militants could prevent attacks against Palestinians.

Overall, Palestine is upset with the "patronizing tone" of the document, which Palestinian officials consider to be a blatant interference in the country's security considerations.

Digery Cohen
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