Nablus checkpoint 248.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
In an effort to bolster PA President Mahmoud Abbas ahead of a possible prisoner swap with Hamas, the IDF on Thursday announced a series of goodwill gestures it will make to strengthen the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.
On Thursday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with Quartet envoy Tony Blair and presented him with the list of restrictions Israel plans to ease in the coming days.
At least one main dirt roadblock near Hebron will be lifted. A second dirt roadblock near Ramallah was planned to be lifted but will not for the time being due an increase in shooting attacks in the area.
Last month, an Israeli was seriously wounded in a drive-by shooting near Ramallah.
On Tuesday, The Jerusalem Post reported that Israel was considering implementing a list of goodwill gestures to help Abbas out of concern that trading many Hamas security prisoners for St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit would undermine the PA president's regime. In 2008, the IDF lifted more than 140 roadblocks in the West Bank.
OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni informed his Palestinian counterparts of the new measures during a meeting late Wednesday night. Shamni announced that the IDF was also permitting the opening of 12 new PA police stations in Area B, where Israeli has security control and the Palestinian have civil control under the Oslo Accords.
The IDF is also issuing special travel permits for PA security commanders and other VIPs that will allow them to pass through checkpoints. Palestinians who are allowed into Israel for medical treatments or study in Israeli medical schools will receive six-month permits instead of the three-month permits they received until now.
On the economic level, the IDF announced that it will begin allowing Israeli Arabs into Nablus on weekends. Israeli Arabs are already allowed into Jenin and have been instrumental in increasing the economic activity in the city.