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Sunday, December 31, 2006
IDF to loosen restrictions on civilians in West Bank Sunday

IDF to loosen restrictions on civilians in West Bank Sunday
By Aluf Benn, Avi Issacharoff and Mijal Grinberg, Haaretz Correspondents
Last update - 07:24 31/12/2006
www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/807458.html

The Israel Defense Forces are expected to remove several barriers on roads
between West Bank villages and ease checks at roadblocks today, as part of
the relaxation of restrictions that Israel has promised the Palestinians.

A security source said that the alleviations are in keeping with Israel's
decision to handle the West Bank and the Gaza Strip differently, in terms of
both military activity and the treatment of the population. Therefore,
Israel decided not to suspend or cancel the removal of checkpoints in the
West Bank because of the Qassam rocket fire from Gaza.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz also authorized an additional relaxation of
restrictions: He has decided to allow Christian Palestinians from Gaza to
visit Christian holy sites in the West Bank and permit Israeli Arabs to
visit relatives in Palestinian territory, which Israelis are forbidden to
enter.

But Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has decided not to release Palestinian
prisoners, a customary gesture for the Muslim holiday of Id al-Adha.

The day after he met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas last
weekend, Olmert, in response to Abbas's request, proposed releasing 20 to 30
prisoners at the cabinet meeting.

Ultimately, however, he decided not to release any prisoners before abducted
soldier Gilad Shalit is returned.

On Thursday, Olmert is due to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm
al-Sheikh.

In other developments, two members of Hamas's military wing were killed on
Friday in an explosion in Gaza City, probably caused by the mishandling of
firearms or explosives. The two, Hussam al-Zamili, 23, and Mohammed
al-Masri, 24, belonged to the section of the organization that is
responsible for manufacturing weapons. A Hamas spokesman said that they were
killed, and three others wounded, in the course of their work.

Several Qassam rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel on Friday.
One landed in a residential part of a kibbutz in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional
Council and damaged some of the houses.

The other rockets caused no damage. One was fired at a kibbutz and another
at Ashkelon, though their landing sites were not found. At noon, two rockets
were found in the Eshkol region. Two other rockets were later observed being
fired at the Karni crossing between Gaza and Israel, but were not found. Two
more rockets were found north of Kisufim.

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