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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Israel Ponders PLO Deal For UN Peacekeepers

TUNIS -- Israeli negotiators have tentatively agreed to a PLO demand for an armed UN presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which could reopen peace talks, PLO and diplomatic sources said Tuesday.


Israel's key negotiator confirmed a preliminary accord was reached, but would not give details.


The accord -- which European diplomats said calls for the moving of Jewish settlers from the West Bank flashpoint of Hebron -- must be ratified by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.


American, Russian and Norwegian envoys have been working to help craft a security arrangement and bring Arafat back to peace talks with Israel that halted with the Feb. 25 massacre of 30 Moslems by a Jewish settler in Hebron.


Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat has demanded an armed international force to protect the 1.8 million Palestinians in the occupied territories, and has said he would not return to the talks without concrete security guarantees.


Sources said Tuesday that under the terms hammered out since Sunday, Israel will accept a lightly-armed UN-sponsored international presence numbering 300 to 500 in Hebron, 600 in Gaza and 1,000 to 1,200 in and around Jericho.


The force would be under Israeli command, said the sources, who included PLO officials and Western diplomats. They spoke on condition they were not identified.


Russia, Norway and other European countries have said they will contribute to the force, the sources said.


In addition, Israel and the PLO will set up joint police patrols in Hebron and other West Bank and Gaza flashpoints, the sources said.


General Amnon Shahak, a member of a four-man Israeli delegation, confirmed that a tentative agreement had been reached, but would not give any details.


"We made them a deal they couldn't refuse," Shahak said.