Israel moves to advance peace plan

Israel has pledged to pull back from four West Bank towns, according to Palestinian spokesman Elias Zananieri.

On Friday, Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz and Palestinian Security Chief Mohammad Dahlan formulated, in principle, the agreement which will see Ramallah, Tulkarem, Qalqiliya and Jericho handed over to Palestinians.

Several military roadblocks are also expected to be removed next week when Qalqiliya and Jericho are handed over.

Israeli withdrawal from Ramallah and Tulkarem is expected late August.

The pullback in Ramallah would give the under-house arrest Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat greater freedom of movement.

The proposed hand over will come as some relief to those working to safeguard the US-backed “road map” for peace in the Middle East.

The week has witnessed fresh violence on both sides of the political divide.

Separately, the militant unit of Islamic Jihad has threatened revenge for an Israeli raid which killed the group’s leader in the West Bank city of Hebron.