JERUSALEM, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Israel has agreed in principle for a
Jordan-based security force loyal to moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas to deploy in the Gaza Strip to help police a truce, an Israeli
diplomatic source said on Tuesday.
The request to redeploy the 1,000-strong Badr Brigade, the source said, came
from Abbas, whose declaration with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on
Sunday on a ceasefire in the tinderbox territory has stirred expectations of
"Basically, we have agreed, though it has not yet been officially released,"
the source said. "The request came through before the cease-fire, but
certainly this (deployment) could boost the truce."
The United States, which has been trying to salvage a tattered "road map" to
Israeli-Palestinian peace, has said it would support letting the Badr
Brigade into Gaza or the occupied West Bank to reinforce security forces
loyal to Abbas.
The Badr Brigade's paramilitary police mostly hail from Abbas's Fatah
faction, which was trounced by Hamas Islamists in
Palestinian elections last January. The rival groups have since clashed on
whether and how to engage Israel.
The Israeli diplomatic source gave no date for the Badr Brigade's planned
deployment in Gaza, which Israel quit in 2005 after 38 years of occupation.
Abbas and Hamas representatives had no immediate comment.
"The decision would have to be made by the governments of Jordan, Israel and
the Palestinians. But the idea is a logical one both militarily and
politically," Lieutenant-General Keith Dayton, the U.S. security coordinator
in the region, told an Israeli newspaper last week.
Olmert and Abbas are under growing U.S. pressure to show progress on ending
decades of conflict. Sudden new talk of peacemaking comes ahead of visits to
the region on Wednesday by President George W. Bush and Secretary of State
Hamas's assumption of power in March prompted the West to impose an aid
embargo on the Palestinians, with the demand that their new government
renounce violence and recognise Israel.
Hamas, which advocates Israel's destruction, has refused.
The diplomatic deadlock and deepening poverty in the West Bank and Gaza have
spread Palestinian rancour, sometimes boiling over into street fights
between Hamas and Fatah militias.
Hamas has created its own Gaza militia -- dubbed the "Executive Force" and
comprising 6,000 men -- saying it is only for improving security in Gaza.
Yet the buildup has stirred concern that a full-blow Hamas-Fatah showdown is
Following the weekend truce declaration, the Palestinian government posted
thousands of police along the Gaza frontier with orders to prevent militants
firing rockets into Israel. Olmert, who agreed to halt military operations
in Gaza, said on Monday Israel could free Palestinian prisoners en masse and
ease travel restrictions in the West Bank if an Israeli soldier held captive
by Gazan gunmen since June is released.
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