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Israelis, Palestinians Switch Control of West Bank Town

By Marjorie Miller
Los Angeles Times
JANIN, West Bank

Making good on slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's peace plan, Israeli troops pulled out of this northern West Bank town on schedule early Monday and handed the city over to Palestinian authorities.

Throngs of Palestinians poured into the spruced-up streets of Janin before dawn to witness the end of a 27-year occupation and welcome their own people into power. Singing, dancing and wild gunfire -- shots fired into the air in celebration -- greeted the Palestinian police who arrived wearing crisp new uniforms.

After raising the Palestinian flag over the former Israeli military government compound, Palestinian leaders paid tribute to Rabin, who was gunned down Nov. 4 by a right-wing Jewish student opposed to relinquishing West Bank land.

"This is the crowning of the efforts for which Rabin gave his life," said Gen. Nasser Yusif, chief of the Palestinian security forces.

The crowd erupted in glee when Tayyeb Abdel Rahim, the top Palestinian official at the ceremony, declared, "We hereby pronounce Janin a liberated city forever."

Janin is the first West Bank city given over to Palestinian control under the interim peace accord signed by Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Washington in September.

Under the agreement, Israeli troops are to pull out of five more Arab cities and most of the sixth -- Hebron -- by the end of the year. Palestinians are to hold their first elections for a governing council on Jan. 20.

Rahim emphasized the partnership between the Israeli government and Arafat's Palestinian Authority -- formerly armed enemies -- adding that Palestinians must appreciate "the efforts of the peace camp in Israel, while demanding they be alert to all attempts on the Israeli side to undermine the peace process."

Arafat has ruled over the West Bank town of Jericho and the coastal Gaza Strip for the last 10 years under his 1993 peace accord with Rabin.

Many Palestinians had feared that the agreement to expand their control in the West Bank would never come about.

A few young men expressed regret that there had not been a military victory over the Israelis.

Others noted that Israeli troops would remain in control of 70 percent of the West bank, which they consider to be the budding state of Palestine.