Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel will transfer security control over Bethlehem and Qalqilia to the Palestinian Authority within two weeks, according to Israeli radio.
Sharon made the comment following a meeting Tuesday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
At the same time Sharon .declared that the Israeli army Ã¢â‚¬Å“will have no more restraintÃ¢â‚¬Â in targeting members of the Islamic Jihad. He said that movement has not halted attacks against Israeli targets and is not committed to the truce.
Sharon also said that Israel will allow a number of Palestinian deportees in Gaza to return to their homes in the West Bank Ã‚Â and will consider the release of Palestinian detainees.
According to Israeli sources, Sharon told Abbas that attacks by the Palestinian resistance weaken public support for his disengagement plan.
On Monday night and early Tuesday, Israeli soldiers arrested 50 members of the Islamic Jihad in several Palestinian areas, even though not all of them are classified by Israel as Ã¢â‚¬Å“tickng bombsÃ¢â‚¬Â (people alleged to be directly involved in planning violent attacks).Ã‚Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Anyone who is affiliated with the Islamic Jihad is a legitimate target,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Lt. Col. Erez Winner, a senior commander of the Israeli army in the West Bank, on Tuesday. Like Sharon, he justified the military’s more aggressive approach toward the Islamic Jihad by claiming that the group considers itself out of the ceasefire agreement.
Also on Tuesday, Israeli Apache military helicopters fired a missile in an attempt to assassinate a Palestinian fighter in the Gaza Strip.