Abbas: I'll pull out West Bank forces

PA chief warns he'll take his men off the streets if IDF raids continue, says they undermine his standing.

abbas 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
abbas 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told supporters on Tuesday that he will withdraw his forces from West Bank cities unless Israel halts its army operations there. Parallel to negotiations with Israel, Abbas has been trying to exert more control in the West Bank and to rein in terrorists. At the same time, the international community is training Abbas's forces, with hopes they will one day take over from Israel. In recent months, Abbas has deployed forces in two of the unruliest towns, Nablus and Jenin, and residents once harassed by vigilante gunmen say they feel more secure. However, the IDF argues that the Palestinian forces often coopt former gunmen, instead of jailing them. Despite the presence of the Palestinian forces, IDF troops have continued operating in Palestinian cities, prompting complaints by Abbas that this is undermining him. On Tuesday, Abbas met with legislators from his Fatah movement, and was asked what he plans to do about the frequent Israeli raids. Abbas is to meet Thursday with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, one of their regular sessions, and said he would bring up the issue. "We are going to tell the Israelis the day after tomorrow that if the incursions and the aggression and the insults to the Palestinian police continue, we will withdraw these forces," Abbas said. His comments were carried by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA and confirmed by an aide, as well as a participant in the meeting, Fatah legislator Najah Abu Bakr. Government spokesman Mark Regev would only say that Israel supports efforts to strengthen the Palestinian security forces. He did not respond to Abbas's warning.