JERUSALEM (May. 19)
A joint Israeli-Palestinian commission convened in the West Bank town of Jericho on Thursday to deal with settler complaints that the ancient synagogue there had been desecrated by the Palestinian police.
The Jericho synagogue has been a focal point of charges and countercharges on an almost daily basis since Israel turned over Jericho to Palestinian authority last Friday.
The impression among Israeli journalists who have visited the site is that the settlers have overstated any damage that was done to the synagogue when Palestinian police entered the building, a move that Palestinian officials later explained was the result of a misunderstanding.
According to news reports, Palestinian police who were living in a tent broke into the synagogue on Wednesday night, apparently in an effort to find a comfortable place to spend the night.
The deputy commander of Palestinian police in Jericho later expressed regret for the incident, and Israeli military sources were quoted as saying that they did not believe the police had acted maliciously.
Maj. Gen. Nasser Yussef, commander of security forces in the Gaza Strip and Jericho, visited the synagogue on Thursday and said that the major problem is that the settlers arrive for prayer fully armed.
“We can’t put up with that,” he said. “We accept their right to enter the building, but they must do so unarmed. That is the ruling of the Cairo agreement.”
On Wednesday, some 250 additional Palestinian police arrived in Jericho, bringing the total there to more than 1,000.
That same day there was an incident in Gaza that further tested Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in the wake of the newly implemented self-rule accord.
An attack took place at the junction of two roads in Gaza that left a 34-year-old Israeli resident of the settlement of Netzarim moderately wounded.
Members of the Israel Defense Force responded with a rapid sortie into a neighborhood of Gaza City in an attempt to find the attackers. They left equally quickly.
An army officer later explained that the Palestinian police should be responsible for investigating such incidents, but that the IDF entered the area because the Palestinians had not yet fully organized their police force. In the future, joint Israeli-Palestinian commissions are supposed to investigate such incidents.