Mideast Cease-Fire Remains In Force Despite New ViolenceIsrael Begins to Redeploy Forces Under Agreement
By Howard Schneider
THE WASHINGTON POST -- The Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire was shaken by new violence Thursday that left an Israeli and two Palestinians dead, but the truce remained in force and Israel began to redeploy its forces as called for under the U.S.-brokered agreement.
An Israeli army intelligence officer, Lt. Col. Yehuda Edri, 45, was killed by a Palestinian man with whom he was meeting on a major highway south of Jerusalem, according to Palestinian radio. The soldier’s bodyguard, who was wounded in the encounter, then shot and killed the Palestinian, Israeli news media reported.
In a separate incident, a Palestinian man was killed in a drive-by shooting on a West Bank road. Israeli police said they were investigating the possibility that Jewish settlers were responsible, or whether the Palestinian was killed by another Palestinian.
Meanwhile, Israelis took some initial steps to redeploy tanks away from flash points and reopen major roads to Palestinian traffic in Gaza as both sides began to search jointly for ways to implement the cease-fire engineered by CIA Director George Tenet.
A follow-up meeting is scheduled for Friday, chaired by the U.S., to determine what was accomplished during the first 48 hours, and to decide what should be done next. If violence stops, then the two sides are to undergo a “cooling off period” for up to six weeks, before taking steps to renew peace negotiations.
The unsigned cease-fire agreement was published in full in Israeli newspapers Thursday, despite Tenet’s desire to minimize publicity about his work. The document commits the two sides to a “mutual, comprehensive cease-fire,” and lays out the important measures to be taken over the first seven days. If the plan is followed, then by the end of next week Israeli troops will have pulled out of some Palestinian-controlled territories, and all roads and villages will be reopened, a return to the situation that existed before the Palestinian uprising began in September.
The Palestinian Authority pledged in the accord to clamp down on violence, coordinate with Israel to combat terrorism, and collect illegal weapons. Israel has already put its soldiers under new restrictions on the use of weapons and is to make more concerted efforts to avoid casualties in dispersing Palestinian demonstrations. It is also supposed to release prisoners arrested during the uprising, provided they were not involved in terrorism.
At least 457 Palestinians, 112 Israelis and 13 Israeli Arabs have died since the beginning of the Palestinian revolt.