Pro-Abbas forces begin deploying in Hebron

Nearly 600 Palestinian police began deploying Saturday in the West Bank city of Hebron following an agreement Thursday between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, reported dpa.

The deployment of the force loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah is part of a Palestinian plan more effectively to enforce law and order in several cities in the occupied West Bank.

The PA says many "wanted criminals" have taken refuge in areas which security forces had not been authorized to access. Hebron is considered a stronghold of Hamas supporters, the Islamic movement which routed pro-Abbas forces in the Gaza Strip last year.

Last week, Hamas expressed fears that the security deployment might be an entry to intensify crackdown against its supporters.

Under a series of security agreements, the PA has already been allowed by Israel to boost its forces in the cities of Nablus and Jenin.

Despite the agreements, the Israeli army did not stop its night raids in the West Bank cities to chase down Palestinian activists.

An Israeli security source said the Palestinian forces would not deploy around an Israeli settlement located in the heart of the city where some 800 hundreds Jewish settlers live.

The existence of the settlement has often created tension between the Palestinian residents of Hebron and the hardliner settlers.

Hamas meanwhile issued a statement saying the latest deployment was "a reward for fighting the Palestinian armed resistance against the Israeli occupation in the West Bank."

Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas spokesman, said in the statement that "redeploying Palestinian security forces in Hebron is part of the dangerous security collaboration between Israel and the PA.

"It is an implementation of the Dayton security plan to protect the occupation, and part of the Palestinian Authority plan to end the presence of Hamas and other armed groups, which resist the occupation."

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