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Monday, 15 October, 2001, 08:40 GMT 09:40 UK
Israeli army pulls out of Hebron
Palestinian children throw stones at Israeli tanks in Hebron
Israeli tanks held strategic sites for 10 days
Israeli forces have withdrawn from strategic positions in the divided West Bank city of Hebron following security talks with Palestinian officials.

The tanks and troops had occupied the Palestinian neighbourhoods of Abu Sneinah and Wadi al-Harria since 5 October, two days after Palestinian gunmen fired on a crowd of Jewish worshippers.

Israeli and Palestinian sources said Israel is preparing further confidence-building measures in an effort to salvage a battered ceasefire agreed on 26 September.

Israeli moves
Withdrawal from Hebron neighbourhoods
Lifting of some roadblocks
Opening of border crossings
Resumption of gasoline supplies
Separately, Hamas activist Ahmed Marshoud was killed in the West Bank city of Nablus on Monday when a car exploded as he was walking past.

There are conflicting reports as to the cause of the explosion.

The Israeli army has not commented on the death of Marshoud, who was wanted by Israel.

Political firestorm

The Hebron withdrawal has provoked a furious reaction from leading Israeli figures.

Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer threatened to fire army Chief of Staff General Shaul Mofaz for publicly criticising the government's decision, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Israeli Defence Minster Binyamin Ben-Eliezer
Mr Ben-Eliezer rebuked General Mofaz
Mr Mofaz issued a press statement on Sunday expressing his opposition to withdrawing from the Hebron positions - an unusual move for a military officer.

Mr Ben-Eliezer was reportedly furious to learn about the public statement while discussing the issue in a cabinet meeting.

Two hardline ministers announced they would leave Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government in protest against the Israeli redeployment.

Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze-evi and National Infrastructure Minister Avigdor Lieberman of the hawkish National Union-Yisrael Beiteinu bloc are expected to make their resignation official on Monday morning.

The resignations will not deprive Mr Sharon's broad coalition of its parliamentary majority.

Some two dozen Jewish residents of Hebron, including many minors, were arrested overnight during clashes with the withdrawing Israeli forces.

Security deal

The BBC's James Reynolds in Jerusalem says that Palestinians agreed to prevent further shooting at Jewish settlers in Hebron.

Demonstrators with flags
Israeli settlements have drawn Palestinian protests
Some 400 Jewish settlers live under heavy guard in the city of 130,000 Palestinians.

Israel has also reportedly agreed to lift roadblocks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and re-open border crossings with Egypt and Jordan.

Israel is also to resume gasoline supplies to the Palestinian Authority.

Sunday's security talks between Israel and the Palestinians came as Mr Arafat arrived in London for talks with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday.

Mr Blair, a strong ally of the United States in its actions against Osama bin Laden, has said that agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is essential to any strategy for fighting terrorism.

Activist killed

The two sides held talks despite an admission by Mr Sharon that Israel was responsible for the death of Hamas official Abdel Rahman Hamad on Sunday.

The funeral of Hamas activist Abdel Rahman Hamad
Hamad was buried on Sunday
Israel says Hamad was responsible for a suicide bombing at a Tel Aviv disco in June in which 22 people died.

Israel defends its policy of targeting militants it accuses of involvement in attacks on Israeli civilians as a legitimate act of self defence.

"This is not the first and not the last," Mr Sharon said of the killing. "We made our stance clear regarding this issue and our stance is clear and that is how we will act."

The policy has been criticised by the Palestinians and international human rights groups.

The BBC's James Reynolds
"Israel carried out what they would call a targeted killing"
Gideon Meir, Israeli Foreign Ministry
"It was not an Islamic militant, it was a terrorist"
See also:

14 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Arafat arrives in the UK for talks
05 Oct 01 | Middle East
Israeli army seizes Hebron hilltop
03 Oct 01 | Middle East
Q&A: Mid-East violence surges
27 Sep 01 | Middle East
Analysis: The intifada one year on
16 Jul 01 | Middle East
Hebron: City of strife
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