10/25/2008, 00.00
PALESTINE - ISRAEL
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Hebron, hundreds of Palestinian agents occupy the city

The operation was ordered by president Abu Mazen, and was coordinated together with Israel and supported by Western governments. The intention is to restore security in the area, and the entire region of the West Bank. The political crisis continues in Israel, as early election looms.

Hebron (AsiaNews/Agencies) -During the night of October 24, about 600 agents of the Palestinian security forces occupied various areas in Hebron, in an operation launched by president Mahmoud Abbas, to reinforce Fatah control over the West Bank.

The move has been supported by Israel and Western governments, which are asking for greater guarantees in an area that has been the theater of of violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers in the past. "We are serious and willing to arrest anyone who disturbs law and order, starting with illegal armed groups and whoever deals with illegal arms," says Samih al-Saifi, Palestinian security chief for the area. According to Israeli security sources, the operation was supported by the Tel Aviv government, which is coordinating the movements of the Palestinian forces, specifying that they may not intervene in areas where Israeli settlers live.

The agreement on the operation was reached on the night of October 22, during a summit between Palestine and Israel, during which it was decided to deploy hundreds of agents for at least a month, in order to guarantee security in the city, the third-largest in the West Bank, where new troops faithful to Abu Mazen have been deployed.

Hebron is considered the political stronghold of Hamas, which exercises wide influence in the city; control over the entire area - in recent months, new forces have been deployed in Nablus and Jenin as well - is fundamental for guaranteeing peace, and a stronger Fatah presence heading into the presidential election in January, when the term of Mahmoud Abbas will end.

Israel, meanwhile, seems to be having increasing difficulties in forming a new government with prime minister-designate Tzipi Livni, who is replacing Ehud Olmert after the scandal that put an end to his political career. Yesterday, representatives of the ultra- Orthodox Shas party refused the conditions dictated by the leaders of Kadima for the formation of a new national coalition government; the prospect of early elections appears increasingly likely.

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