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Palestinian police to get 25 armored vehicles next week - report

RIA Novosti

07/12/2007 17:18 TEL AVIV, December 7 (RIA Novosti) - Palestinian security forces in Nablus will receive 25 armored personnel carriers next week despite concerns the hardware could end up in the hands of radical groups, The Jerusalem Post said on Friday.

The armored vehicles promised to Palestinian security forces shortly before a recent Mideast summit in the U.S. are designed to help Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the fight against militant groups on the West Bank, following the seizure of the Gaza Strip from pro-presidential Fatah in June by the Hamas movement.

The paper said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert approved the shipment two weeks ago despite objections from his own security forces, which then delayed the transfer of the Russian-made armored vehicles after the Palestinians demanded that they be fitted with mounted machine guns.

The vehicles will be transferred to the West Bank via Jordan. They will be deployed in Nablus, where they will be used by the Palestinian police.

According to Israeli intelligence, a large number of militant cells are located in Nablus. Palestinian authorities took steps in November to tighten security in the city.

Defense officials said that while the Palestinians backed down from their demand to have machine guns installed on the vehicles, it was still possible that they would do so unilaterally once the transfer was completed.

The recent one-day Middle East conference, which was attended by 44 nations November 27 in Annapolis, produced a joint statement signed by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas, including an agreement to broker a peace deal by the end of next year.

However, Olmert cast a shadow on the success of the Annapolis forum on Sunday, by saying that Israel did not recognize the 2008 target date as a deadline.

Israeli authorities released 429 Palestinian prisoners December 3 in an amnesty following the U.S.-sponsored peace conference, local radio said.

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