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Israel prepares to turn over 2 cities

Minister meets Abbas, says West Bank move in 'coming days'

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West Bank
Mahmoud Abbas
Shaul Mofaz

(CNN) -- The West Bank cities of Jericho and Tulkarem will be transferred from Israeli to Palestinian control "in the coming days," Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Tuesday night after meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mofaz called the talks "successful," and said in a written statement that "the purpose of the meeting was to push forward the diplomatic process, to step up the war on terror and to conclude the transfer of security responsibility over selected cities to the Palestinians."

They met at Erez Crossing, one of the checkpoints at Gaza's border with Israel.

Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met February 8 in Egypt, where they announced a cease-fire. (Full story)

In a show of good will, Israel two weeks ago freed 500 Palestinian prisoners, one day after the government authorized the evacuation of settlements in Gaza and parts of the West Bank. (Full story)

"We are continuing to do everything possible to improve the quality of life for the Palestinian population that is not involved with terror," Mofaz said after Tuesday's meeting.

However, he said again that Israel expects Palestinians to uphold their commitments and aggressively fight terror.

"The continuation of murderous terror attacks, as we have experienced in Tel Aviv just the other week, will not enable the diplomatic process we are hoping for," he added.

In late February, a suicide bomber detonated himself outside a beachfront nightclub in Tel Aviv, killing five people and wounding at least 65 others.

Sharon said Sunday he plans to meet again soon with Abbas and will urge him to take action quickly against extremist Islamic organizations. (Full story)

The prime minister said Abbas has not yet taken sufficient action, according to a statement released by his office.

Sharon said the Lebanon-based Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah was the biggest danger to the stability of Abbas' government.

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