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Israel agrees to hand over cities

Vow to dismantle unauthorized outposts


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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel has agreed to hand over two West Bank cities to full Palestinian security control and will further discuss the handover of a third city, the Israeli Defense Ministry said late Monday.

The ministry said Israel would first hand over Jericho on Wednesday, followed by Tulkarem at the beginning of next week.

It said Israeli and Palestinian officials would also further discuss the plan to pull out of Qalqilya.

The handover was agreed to during talks between Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Palestinian Interior Minister Nasser Yousif on Monday.

Palestinian officials had no immediate comment on the report.

The pullback agreement comes ahead of talks in Cairo, Egypt, planned for Tuesday where Palestinian leadership will seek to persuade Palestinian militant groups to formalize their agreement to a cease-fire with Israel, Reuters reports.

In earlier developments, Israel's government pledged Sunday to honor its commitment to dismantle unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank after a government report outlined widespread complicity among governmental ministries that aided the outposts' construction.

But Cabinet ministers interviewed by Israeli media Sunday said it was unlikely they would be dismantled before Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to evacuate settlements in Gaza and the northern West Bank goes ahead in August.

The government did not provide a timeline for dismantling the 24 illegal outposts, which it committed to tear down as part of the U.S.-backed "road map" for a Mideast peace settlement in May 2003. According to the plan, Israel must dismantle West Bank outposts built after Sharon took office in March 2001.

"Israel's government will honor this commitment," Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon said in a statement. (Full story)


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