JERUSALEM (May. 10)
With cries of joy and Palestine Liberation Organization flags held aloft, tens of thousands of excited Palestinians swept into the streets of the Gaza Strip late Tuesday afternoon to welcome the first arrivals of the newly established Palestinian police force.
It had taken the initial contingent of police close to three days to get the go-ahead to cross the Rafa border separating Egypt from the newly autonomous region of Gaza.
“We have our own police, just like any other people,” overjoyed Gazans said. “This is a historic moment!”
The first group of Palestinian police numbered only 30, but Israeli and Palestinian officials said another 150 would arrive before the end of the day. The groups arriving Tuesday had been trained in Egypt. Others were being trained throughout the Arab world.
They represent the first detachment of a 9,000-member police force to be deployed in Gaza and the West Bank town of Jericho under the terms of the self-rule accord signed May 4 in Cairo by Israel and the PLO.
In Jericho, three joint committees of Palestinians and Israelis met and toured various civilian installations, working out the details of how the transfer of power is to be effected smoothly.
The transfer from Israeli to Palestinian authority is expected to take place over the course of a week.
At a news conference, Palestinian businessman Jamil Tarifi, said to be a confidant of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, announced that the Palestinians would not be taking over the town’s administration until the Palestinian police were in place. Their arrival, Tarifi said, was being delayed for technical reasons that had nothing to do with Israel.
At the news conference, it was also announced that according to the autonomy agreements, Jews were to be allowed to worship at Jericho’s ancient synagogue during major festivals.