Israel has moved to bolster the week-old truce with the Palestinians by ordering its forces operating in the occupied West Bank to avoid "unnecessary friction."
"Instructions have been issued to avoid unnecessary frictions and to abstain from actions that could serve as a pretext" for Palestinians to break the tentative ceasefire between the Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Israel's Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh told army radio on Monday. He added "the army has not always paid enough attention to avoid such frictions" in the past.
Among other moves enacted to secure the truce, any arrests carried out in the West Bank will now have to be approved by senior army command, instead of brigade commanders as previously, army radio reported.
Any assassination attacks will now require approval from both Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz instead of a sole go-ahead from army chief of staff Dan Halutz, the Tel Aviv-based Haaretz reported. However, officials stressed that the army would not extend the truce to the West Bank, as called for by the Palestinians.
Overnight 15 Palestinians were arrested in the West Bank on suspicion of belonging to armed groups.
Haniyeh in Syria
Meanwhile in Damascus, President Bashar al-Assad on Monday met with Palestinian Premier Ismail Haniyeh. "Unwavering support to the Palestinian people and their aspirations to establish independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and rights to return home in addition to efforts for lifting the siege imposed on the Palestinian people," were discussed during the meeting, SANA reported.
Earlier, Syria's Vice President Farouk al-Shara met the Palestinian Premier. "Shara renewed Syria's support to the Palestinian people struggle, underlining importance of boosting its national unity and lifting the unfair siege imposed on it," SANA reported.