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Friday, November 20, 1998 Published at 09:34 GMT


World: Middle East

Israeli troops begin pull-out

Israeli and Palestinian commanders map out the final redeployment

Israeli troops have begun the process of withdrawing from part of the West Bank close to the northern town of Jenin.

Middle East
An Israeli army spokesman said that road markers have been laid at road intersections to delineate the new boundaries.


Lyse Doucet: "There has been a hitch"
However, there has been some disagreement over the size of the area evacuated by Israel.

The BBC's Correspondent in Jerusalem, Lyse Doucet, says that the governor of Jenin was on his way to see Yasser Arafat to discuss the situation.

Israel's government gave the green light on Thursday for the transfer of more West Bank land to Palestinian control as promised under the Wye River peace accord.


Lyse Doucet reports: Jenin is in waiting
There were scenes of celebration in Jenin with about 5,000 jubilant Palestinians parading through the streets celebrating the anticipated Israeli withdrawal.

After weeks of delay, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's cabinet authorised the army to carry out a first stage withdrawal from 2% of the West Bank, by a vote of seven to five with three abstentions.


Jerusalem Correspondent Lyse Doucet: "First withdrawls in nearly two years"
It will be the first withdrawal in nearly two years - the last was from the West Bank town of Hebron - and will involve the transfer of nearly 200 square miles.

As part of the first phase of the deal, the cabinet also approved the long-delayed opening of a Palestinian airport in Gaza and the release of 250 Palestinian prisoners.


[ image: Jewish settlements are being fortified]
Jewish settlements are being fortified
One report said the Israelis would release a mix of political detainees and criminals at noon (1000 GMT) on Friday. However, the Palestinian Authority have insisted that all 250 released prisoners should be political detainees.

As the Israeli cabinet met, it emerged that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had issued a decree banning all incitement to violence - a key element of the peace deal.

And before the session, Israeli Public Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani confirmed the Palestinians did appear to have met their obligations.


Government media advisor David Bar-Ilan and the Labour Party's Yossi Beilin on the withdrawals
"It seems to me that the actions they were supposed to take, as far as I know at this point, have been taken," Mr Kahalani told army radio. "The redeployment should be tonight."

Commanders from both sides met on Wednesday to complete preparations for the expected pullout.

On the ground Israeli troops have been continuing to fortify Jewish settlements bordering areas to fall under Palestinian rule and to build bypass roads.

Difficult process

The land for security deal was signed at the White House last month.

Under the accord Israel has agreed to cede another 13% of the West Bank in three phases over 12 weeks in return for Palestinian steps against anti-Israel militants and other political moves.


Palestinian spokesman Marwan Kanafani: First step of the process
Israel's parliament approved the peace deal on Tuesday after Mr Netanyahu's right-wing cabinet narrowly approved the accord last week.

But Jewish settlers immediately took over several hilltops under cover of night.

They said they were responding to a call by Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon to take over as many hilltops as possible before the land was handed over to Palestinian control.



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