Israel, Fatah resume security contacts
Israeli and Palestinian security officials from Fatah have resumed meetings after nearly two years, officials on both sides confirmed Tuesday. The officials met in an undisclosed location Monday to "talk about how to move forward with security cooperation," Miri Eisin, a spokeswoman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, told The Associated Press.
Palestinian security officials said the session was the latest in a flurry of contacts in recent weeks.
The officials conveyed the talks included discussions on easing Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement within the West Bank. The Palestinians asked Israel to stop going after fighters loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but Israel gave no assurances, said the officials.
Eisin characterized the renewed talks as a first step, and said Israel and the Palestinians were not exchanging names of wanted men or coordinating arrests.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, accused Abbas of being an Israeli collaborator. "The latest security meetings ... render the (Palestinian) security agencies tools in the hands of Israeli intelligence," he said, according to the AP.
Abbas expelled Hamas from the Palestinian government after the latter routed his loyalists in Gaza Strip last month. Now, Hamas gunmen in the West Bank are now being pursued by both Israel and the new Palestinian government. Palestinian security officials confirmed Tuesday that they are holding dozens of Hamas members in the West Bank, and dozens more have been arrested and released.
Col. Maher Dwaikat, head of Palestinian Preventive Security in the West Bank town of Ramallah, said his men had instructions to arrest armed members of Hamas. Some were arrested and freed after having their weapons confiscated, Dwaikat said, while others remained in detention. "All of our efforts now are to prevent Hamas from carrying out another military coup in the West Bank," Dwaikat said.