Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Palestinians Wait, in Vain, for PLO to Take Reins

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Palestinians Wait, in Vain, for PLO to Take Reins

Article excerpt

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho entered their long-awaited period of self-government Thursday, only to find that the Palestine Liberation Organization was unprepared to exercise the authority it won in months of tough negotiations with Israel.

Palestinians waited all day in the hot sun for PLO commanders to take over the new police headquarters. But nobody showed up.

Relatives waited for Palestinian prisoners to be released, but tension rose while the release was delayed. Israeli soldiers dismantled the main army Gaza base, but there was no troop withdrawal.

In the Gaza Strip, 22 senior Palestinian police commanders began preliminary talks on assuming control of the area from Israeli forces that have occupied it for nearly 27 years. But they said 6,000 rank-and-file police officers would arrive only over the next three weeks.

The deployment of the new Palestinian police, who will eventually number 9,000, is a key political move, for it replaces the Israeli occupation with an accepted Palestinian authority, as well as preserving order during the transition. Palestinians not only in the Gaza Strip but the West Bank have looked toward the force's arrival as their day of liberation.

In Jericho, the Israeli general commanding the West Bank declared it a "closed military area," surrounding it with combat troops and allowing only residents to enter, as Jewish settlers continued to protest the planned Israeli withdrawal from the ancient town.

And Israeli officials in Jerusalem expressed their concerns that essential services - health care, water supplies and electrical power among others - would collapse unless the PLO quickly designated officials to take charge of Gaza and Jericho as 700 Israelis in the military government pull out.

"We are leaving, and we are eager to do so and implement this agreement on autonomy," said Uri Dromi, director of the Israeli government press office. "But we just can't walk away and let chaos reign. …

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