Palestinian policemen will be permitted to carry arms in Areas A and B in the West Bank (under total or partial Palestinian control), to safeguard the polling booths during the Palestinian Authority Legislative Council elections on Wednesday.
According to security officials, policemen deployed in areas under total Palestinian control (Area A) will be permitted to carry Kalashnikov rifles, while those deployed in Area B under Israeli security control and Palestinian civilian control will only be permitted to carry handguns, the officials said. In areas under total Israeli control (Area C), including the areas surrounding Jerusalem, the Palestinian Police will not be permitted to carry any arms at all, the officials said.
Seeking to maintain a low profile to avoid accusations of interfering, security officials said the policy being adopted by Israel was that of a facilitator. "We do not want to be perceived as interfering in PA elections or want to be blamed for any hitches," a security official told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
From Tuesday morning, the IDF will refrain from initiating operations in the West Bank until Thursday night, unless information is received of an imminent attack or ticking bomb, IDF sources said. Palestinian fugitives caught at checkpoints during this period will be arrested, the sources said. "Israel is obligated to ensure that its citizens are safe and security is upheld despite the elections," said one of the sources.
The army said that no additional IDF checkpoints had been set up to cater for the elections. During the 72-hour period, troops will beef up their presence on West Bank roads, and along the seam line or the Green Line.
While the IDF has not maintained a permanent presence in any of the West Bank cities for some time, during the three-day period it will also refrain from conducting routine patrols in the cities and villages that are often carried out to arrest those involved in terror, the sources added.
Senior IDF and Civil Administration officers will man existing checkpoints, and be prepared to deal with any problems that may arise and ensure that Palestinian dignitaries, electoral candidates and their delegations enjoy smooth access through the checkpoints. International observers will enjoy unrestricted movement between Gaza and the West Bank to allow them to monitor the election process, security officials said.
In recent days there have been a number of meetings between IDF and Civil Administration officials and their Palestinian counterparts to coordinate the preparations, security and logistics, security officials said. On Wednesday a joint coordination or situation room will be manned by Civil Administration officials and their PA security counterparts at the Civil Administration headquarters located in the Judea and Samaria division command near Beit El. The aim is to allow officials to coordinate and deal with any problems that may require a higher level of intervention if they are not solved on the ground, officials said.