"We have agreed upon the transfer of the security responsibility on the Tulkarem area starting from this evening at eight a clock, after long discussions with the Palestinian side. We have agreed on most issues and decided to postpone a few, several issues, that remain open to two weeks or four weeks from now. I hope that this is a step (towards) a new era, of better responsibility and better situation of security for our people, both people."
Israelis and Palestinians reached a deal on Monday about handing over security control of the West Bank town of Tulkarem, a boost for a fledgling peace process that has repeatedly bogged down over security issues.
The handover could also help Palestinian officials carry out a new directive restricting weapons in the hands of militants, who insist they'll comply only if Israel withdraws from West Bank towns.
Tulkarem is the second of five towns to be handed back to Palestinian security as part of an agreement to end four years of bloodshed announced at a summit meeting in Egypt on February 8 by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and reinforced last week by truce declarations from Palestinian militant groups.
In the six weeks since the summit, violence has dropped considerably, but not all confidence-building measures, transfer of the towns and release of additional Palestinian prisoners, have been implemented, renewing suspicions.
Israeli and Palestinian security officers hammered out a compromise over the town of Tulkarem in two meetings on Monday.
Senior Israeli commander, Colonel Tamir Hayman said that Palestinian police would be in control of the area as of Monday evening, and the main roadblock in front of Tulkarem would be dismantled on Tuesday morning, completing the process.