Israel is ready to consider a mutual cease-fire declaration, a Palestinian negotiator said Thursday, as the Palestinian leadership barred Palestinians from carrying weapons and prepared to deploy police in some of the most volatile areas of the Gaza Strip over the weekend.
The order banning civilians from carrying arms was the latest sign of the Palestinians' intentions to rein in violence amid signals that a peace process can be resumed. In some areas of the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian militants often openly brandish their automatic weapons, highlighting the lack of law and order and control by Palestinian security forces.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas won praise from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and visiting U.S. envoy William Burns for his efforts to halt violence.
Abbas has won assurances from armed groups that they will halt attacks on Israel, provided Israel stops military operations, including arrest raids and targeted killings of Palestinian fugitives. Abbas told reporters Thursday that he expects to hear from Israel "as soon as possible" on his offer of a cease-fire declaration.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia issued the gun-banning order after a meeting of the security cabinet, minister Saeb Erekat said.
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