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Last Updated: Monday, 4 December 2006, 11:14 GMT
Israel 'to ease' W Bank friction
Palestinian stone-thrower, 15, at a Nablus hospital mortuary
Five West Bankers have died in Israeli fire since the ceasefire
Israel has ordered its troops to avoid "unnecessary friction" in the occupied West Bank, amid efforts to shore up a ceasefire with the Palestinians.

Deputy Defence Minister Ephraim Sneh acknowledged in an army radio interview that "the army has not always paid enough attention to such frictions".

Arrests and air strikes targeting Palestinian militants will also have to be approved at senior level.

The tentative ceasefire began in the Gaza Strip on 26 November.

"Instructions have been issued to avoid unnecessary frictions and to abstain from actions that could serve as a pretext," Mr Sneh told Israeli army radio.

Correspondents say that large scale raids into Palestinian towns in the West Bank often lead to exchanges of fire and more troops having to be sent in as reinforcements.

Overnight, troops detained 15 Palestinian suspects in the West Bank.

Extension demand

From now on, Israeli sources say any arrests carried out in the West Bank will now have to be approved by senior army command, rather than lower-ranking brigade commanders.

So-called targeted killings of suspected militants will require approval at the level of the prime minister and the defence minister, according to Israeli media reports.

Previously the controversial attacks could be authorised by the army chief of staff.

Palestinians are calling for the ceasefire to be extended to the West Bank, where five people, including a 15-year-old stone thrower, have been killed by Israeli fire in the last week.

On Sunday, al-Aqsa Brigades leaders said they would resume rocket attacks against Israel in two weeks, if the ceasefire was not extended to the West Bank.

The ceasefire has put an end to five months of intense fighting in Gaza and raised hopes it could lead to a renewal of long-stalled peace talks.

Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza and the number of home-made rockets being fired at Israeli civilian targets has drastically reduced.




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