Israeli Troop Withdrawal Signals End To Isolation

Israel is withdrawing its troops from the West Bank. A RIA Novosti correspondent reports that the pullout of army divisions from Jenin and the western part of Ramallah marks the end to the isolation of Qalqilya and Hevron. The official reason behind the move is a drop in the level of violence. However, many observers claim that the troop withdrawal from the so-called "zone A", which is controlled by the Palestinian National authority in accordance with the Norwegian Accords, is connected with the imminent arrival of US special envoy to the Middle East, Anthony Zinni. He is due to arrive in Israel this afternoon, i.e. several hours after the start of the operation. The priority of his visit is expected to be aimed at persuading Israel to relax the isolation regime. The Israeli army entered "zone A" on the West Bank to prevent bombers from penetrating Israeli territory. Palestinian transport is expected to resume service linking various settlements on the West Bank on Thursday. Meanwhile, many local commentators are stressing that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon took the decision to pull out the troops under pressure from Washington, despite indications that radical organisations are intending to commit new terrorist attacks. A representative of the Council of Jewish Settlers reminded Sharon on Thursday about the tragic consequences that, in his opinion, followed the last relaxation of the isolation regime and re-opening of Palestinian roads. Terrorists then seized the opportunity to attack cars with Israeli number plates.

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