JERUSALEM — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday deployed about 2,000 security forces around northern Gaza in a move to stop attacks into Israel, his office said.
“The president ordered the Palestinian police, preventative security and the intelligence units to spread inside the cities and refugee camps in the Gaza Strip to maintain order and protect the interests of the population,” a statement said.
The move came as Abbas continued to pressure Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups to stop their attacks on Israelis, arguing that Israel will not go ahead with its disengagement plan from Gaza while under attack from militants.
The movement of Palestinian security forces came under the threat of Israeli military action but also was carried out with Israeli coordination.
Israel approved plans this week for a major offensive in Gaza if the Palestinian Authority fails to stop the attacks, but Israeli officials met Wednesday night with Palestinian security officials to go over the Palestinian redeployment plan.
Maj. Gen. Moussa Arafat, in charge of the Palestinian security forces, said he wanted Israeli coordination so that Israeli troops would not mistake the Palestinian security forces for terrorists and open fire on them.
Israel said Thursday that Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz had signed off on the Palestinian plan.
The first phase of the deployment was under way Friday with security forces in northern Gaza, but the second part will take place within 48 hours, involving southern Gaza.
Between 2,000 and 3,000 security forces were to be deployed along the Gaza-Israeli border, Palestinian security sources said.
Witnesses said Palestinian security forces were stopping and inspecting vehicles near Erez and Karni junctions in northern Gaza.
Abbas, who was inaugurated last weekend, has been deeply involved in efforts to persuade Palestinian militant groups to join a cease-fire in hopes Israel would reciprocate.
Abbas met Wednesday with officials from Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Neither side agreed with Abbas’ cease-fire plan, but Palestinian Authority officials said they remained optimistic.
The military wing of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have carried out deadly attacks on Israeli civilians as well as military targets.
Palestinian sources said Hamas officials have resisted a call to lay down their arms, arguing that they had forced Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to formulate his plan to pull about 8,000 Jewish settlers and all Israeli troops out of Gaza.
But Abbas has argued that Sharon will not go ahead with the disengagement plan under fire from militants, the Palestinian sources said. Abbas has told Hamas and other militants that the best way to ensure Sharon proceeds with his withdrawal plan is to halt their attacks.
The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported Friday it had obtained an internal document distributed by Hamas’ leadership calling on the group to cooperate with Abbas.
Ha’aretz said the document puts Hamas on record for the first time as endorsing the Palestinian Authority’s goal of an independent Palestinian state based on the borders with Israel following the 1967 war, with Jerusalem as its capital.
The newspaper said Hamas was not expected to respond formally to demands from Abbas until Sunday.