PA rejects int'l troops in West Bank

Security forces in Ramallah gear up for Bush's visit; PA official: We can assume responsibility.

PA police 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
PA police 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Palestinian Authority on Tuesday rejected the idea of deploying third party troops in the West Bank. A senior PA official said there was no need for the presence of foreign troops there "because the Palestinian security forces are capable of assuming their responsibilities in the area." The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday that the US is preparing a plan to station third party troops in the West Bank to secure the area after an Israeli withdrawal and before the PA can take over full security control. The issue of how to deal with the period between when Israel leaves large swaths of the West Bank and the PA is able to take control is likely to be discussed during talks US President George W. Bush will hold in Jerusalem and in the PA this week. US Special Envoy for Middle East Security James Jones has been assigned the task of preparing a plan on this issue within six months. A number of options are being considered, including the involvement of NATO troops or Jordanian and Egyptian forces. The PA official told the Post that he had not heard about the idea until now. He also expressed doubt that Bush would raise the issue during his talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad. "Before we talk about deploying foreign troops in the West Bank, we must talk about the need to halt construction in the settlements and remove the Israeli checkpoints," he added. "In any case, we are opposed to the presence of non-Palestinian security forces in the Palestinian territories." Meanwhile, the PA security forces have decided to place at least half of Ramallah under curfew during Bush's visit. Residents of the city will be banned from driving their vehicles all day Thursday and have been advised to remain indoors. Adnan al-Damiri, spokesman for the PA police, also warned residents against standing on rooftops, especially in areas close to the Mukata "presidential" compound. Residents who must leave their homes for urgent medical treatment or other purposes will need to obtain permission from a special operations room set up by the PA security forces, he said. The PA is planning to deploy thousands of policemen in the city during Bush's visit. PA policemen guarding the Mukata won't be able to carry live ammunition and no Palestinian bodyguards will be permitted to approach Bush's entourage. The PA has also banned all forms of protest in Ramallah, warning that anyone who violates the order would be arrested. Sources in the city said a number of Palestinian factions are planning to hold a demonstration in the center of Ramallah to protest against Bush's visit. In the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinians marched in the streets Tuesday in protest against Bush's visit to Ramallah. The demonstrators, who carried empty coffins, called for an end to the international sanctions imposed on the Hamas government. The unprecedented security measures, which also included sealing all sewage openings in the streets in the past few days, have enraged many residents. "This is crazy," complained accountant Mustapha Jawad. "Bush does not deserve all this respect. He's the biggest enemy of the Palestinians and all Arabs and Muslims." Hilmi Sabagh, an engineer, expressed outrage over Bush's visit and the tough security measures. "Bush is not welcome here," he said. "Why did he remember the Palestinians only toward the end of his term? Our city is controlled by American security forces and no one is happy about this."