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Palestinian Self-rule Starting to Pick Up Steam After Slow Start

After a week of delays, implementation of Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza Strip and West Bank town of Jericho finally started to gather steam Thursday.

In Gaza that day, the newly formed Palestinian police force assumed control in the town of Rafah, which lies on the border with Egypt.

A day earlier, accompanied by the cheers of thousands of Gaza residents, a force of Palestinian police took over the town of Deir el-Balah, making it the first area to fall officially under Palestinian control.

In Jericho, an advance group of Palestinian officers entered the city on Thursday and began preparations for assuming control there.

Officials with the Israel Defense Force were meanwhile gearing up Thursday to escort a convoy of 300 Palestinian police who were soon to arrive from their staging point in Jordan.

The police were scheduled to travel through Israel to Gaza, where they would assume their duties. They were being allowed to travel with their arms, but they were not to be issued ammunition until their arrival in Gaza.

An Israeli officer who identified himself as Col. Herzl spoke about the convoy with Israel Radio on Thursday and expressed some hesitation about the operation.

“In an orderly manner, under our supervision and responsibility, they will reach Gaza through the State of Israel,” he said.

The officer said this was the first time a convoy of this sort had been planned, and, he added, “It may be the last.”

Also on Thursday, Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat announced the names of 15 of the 24 people who will serve as members of the Palestinian Authority, the body that will oversee Palestinian affairs in Gaza and Jericho.

Among the 15 were Arafat himself; Ahmed Karia, also known as Abu Alaa, head of the PLO’s economic division; Nabil Sha’ath, a senior adviser to Arafat who was also chief Palestinian negotiator at the Israeli-PLO talks successfully concluded last week in Cairo; Saeb Erekat, a member of the Palestinian negotiating team in Washington; Hanan Ashrawi, a former Palestinian spokeswoman; and Elias Freij, the mayor of Bethlehem.

Sha’ath said Thursday that the remaining names would be submitted to Israel within the next few days.

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