Contrary to Ariel Sharon’s promise to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting last week, Israeli will not transfer control over Qalqilia to the Palestinian Authority this week.

Israel claims that this decision stems from what was described as the “escalating violence in the West Bank over the last ten days.” Israeli security officials charge that P.A security forces are not acting effectively against the resistance to reduce the number of attacks against Israeli targets.

The army, however, is continuing to prepare for the handover of Qalqilia, and in spite of the latest events, it might be handed to the P.A next week, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz. Bethlehem is scheduled to be transferred to P.A control a week later after Qalqilia.

Recently, a rift emerged between Israel and the United States over arming the P.A security forces. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and General William Ward, the US security coordinator, told Israeli officials that Israel must allow the P.A to obtain more weapons, otherwise “the authority will not be able to impose order”.

Israel completely rejected this demand, claiming, according to Israeli officials, that the P.A did not show any real interest in fighting what was described as “terrorism” and that any weapons Palestinian policemen receive “will most likely be used in attacks against Israelis.”

Ward is expected to press this issue again in the coming weeks, since he is convinced that the P.A needs more arms in order to maintain law and order in its areas.

Overnight, Israeli soldiers arrested six members of the Islamic Jihad in the West Bank, according to the military. Palestinian sources said that at least ten residents, mainly members of the Islamic Jihad, were arrested.