balata nablus 224.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
300 Palestinian policemen were deployed in the West Bank town of Nablus Friday morning, as part of goodwill gestures to the Palestinian Authority.
The policemen's deployment followed a promise by Defense Minster Ehud Barak to PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad.
The policemen will engage in maintaining order and the rule of law in the town in an effort to strengthen the control of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. However, the defense establishment in Jerusalem stressed that the IDF would continue to bear responsibility for overall security in Nablus.
The deployment of Palestinian police had been agreed upon already more than five weeks ago in a meeting between Barak and Fayad. Back then, Fayad asked Barak to allow 500 police officers to enter Nablus.
The deployment joins other goodwill gestures undertaken by Israel recently, such as the release of Palestinian prisoners and the removal of several roadblocks from West Bank roads.
While agreement on the issue had been reached more than a month ago, the sides finalized coordination on the matter only earlier this week.
Sources in the defense establishment had estimated that only 300 officers would be deployed by the Palestinians despite Israel's approval that 500 men would work in the city.
The sources added that the officers would carry out regular police work and would only work during daylight hours.
An official in Jerusalem emphasized that the move should not be interpreted as giving full security responsibility to the PA. "The IDF will continue to be responsible for security and if need be, we will not hesitate to enter the town to prevent terrorist activity," the official said.
Nablus, the official added, is a test ground for the future, and if the policemen's deployment is be seen as successful, Israel may allow Palestinian police forces to enter other West Bank cities.