The 300 Palestinian policemen whom Israel allowed into Nablus on Friday are only permitted to operate between 6 A.M. and midnight, the policemen said Saturday. During the remaining hours, Israel's agreement with the Palestinian Authority leaves the Israel Defense Forces in charge, and any police activity during those hours requires the IDF's consent.
This deal was reached Thursday night in a meeting between senior IDF officers and Palestinian security officials.
The police deployment, which is supposed to help the PA restore law and order in the city, was agreed on about six weeks ago, but was delayed by the shortage of trained policemen. That is also why only 300 policemen were deployed on Friday, though Israel had agreed to 500.
The policemen are charged only with fighting ordinary crime. The IDF retains responsibility for counterterrorism.
Also on Friday, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas met with three senior Hamas officials in the West Bank: former education minister Nasser Shaer, Hussein Abu Kwik and Freij Ghoman. The meeting, officially a joint prayer session, was arranged after the three condemned a statement by a senior Hamas official in Gaza, Nizar Ghayan, who said that Hamas would be praying in PA headquarters in Ramallah next fall, after overthrowing Abbas.
This is the first time Abbas has met with senior Hamas officials since Hamas ousted his forces from Gaza this summer.
A Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Ayman Teh, told Haaretz that during Friday's meeting, Abbas promised that his forces would stop pursuing Hamas members in the West Bank and would release some arrested Hamas members from prison.
On Saturday, an IDF air strike killed a Hamas operative near Rafah, on the Gaza-Egypt border. The dead man was identified as Mohammed Siyam, 34. Two other Hamas operatives who were in the car with him when the missile hit were wounded.
According to the IDF, the strike was in response to a barrage of some 15 mortar shells on southern Israel on Friday. Three of the shells hit Moshav Netiv Ha'asara, but caused no casualties.
Also on Saturday, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayad demanded that Israel release 2,000 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture in advance of the Annapolis summit. Speaking to the Associated Press, Fayad said that such a gesture was necessary to make Palestinians believe in the peace process.
Israeli officials said that they are considering Fayad's proposal.
Yuval Azoulay contributed to this report.