Agence France Presse (AFP)
July 24, 2008 - 4:25pm

The Israeli army will reduce its operations in the West Bank city of Nablus, an official said Thursday after Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas threatened to pull forces out of the flashpoint city.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak has told Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad that Israel will restrict its activities in Nablus to the "necessary minimum" in order not to undermine efforts to establish an effective Palestinian police force in the city, the senior defence official told AFP.

"We will coordinate certain activities and operations with the Palestinian security forces in Nablus. We want the security forces to be effective and assume responsibility. We do not wish to harm or weaken them," he said.

"We will restrict our activities in Nablus to the necessary minimum."

Abbas threatened earlier this week to withdraw his forces from the occupied West Bank city unless Israel halted military raids there.

In November, Abbas deployed hundreds of Palestinian security forces to Nablus in what was envisioned as the start of a territory-wide crackdown to underpin US-backed peace talks formally relaunched later that month.

They have largely brought law and order to the town, which was roiled by violence during the last Palestinian uprising, which began in 2000, ridding the streets of guns and breaking up local crime rings.

Israeli security officials credit the Palestinians with cracking down on crime but say they have done little to rein in armed political movements like Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip from Abbas's forces in June 2007.

The army reserves the right to operate anywhere in the occupied West Bank and carries out near nightly operations in Nablus that the Palestinians say have undermined their security efforts and political credibility.


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