Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Wednesday that he is freezing the handover of West Bank towns to Palestinian security control because the Palestinian Authority failed to disarm militants.
A participant in the Israeli security cabinet meeting, where Mofaz made his comments, informed reporters on condition of anonymity.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat described the decision as very unfortunate, denying that the PA was formally notified.
An Israeli source said on Wednesday that Israeli and Palestinian officials will meet next week to discuss the release of 400 more Palestinian prisoners. Israel has also delayed the process after the first batch of 500 prisoners was released.
Both the release of prisoners and the handover of west bank cities to the PA were decided on the SharmÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s summit meeting around two months ago.
Also, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the security cabinet Wednesday that he will meet soon with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas nexst week after the Israeli Independence Day holiday.
PA security chief said Wednesday that despite Israeli pressure, the PA has no intention of disarming resistance groups.
‘We have no intention of withdrawing arms of resistance,’ Rashid Abu Shbak, the head of the internal Preventive Security Service, said in a news conference in Gaza.
Yet, Abu Shbak called resistance groups to honor their commitment to the cease-fire, and not take their weapons out in public.
‘Arms of resistance should not be displayed in streets. Arms of resistance should not be used in family feuds. Arms of resistance should not kill a woman who goes out with her fiance,’ he said
The Palestinian Authority began a law-and-order drive last weekend aimed both at ending lawlessness and ensuring the truce is respected.
Abbas has always said he prefers dialogue with resistance to using force to rein them in, but Israel has said repeatedly that there will be no peace negotiations until the dismantling of armed factions.