Key Palestinian exile may return

188.jpgIsrael is to allow a key Palestinian leader to travel to the West Bank, in a measure seen as another attempt to bolster President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel holds Nawef Hawatmeh responsible for an attack on a school more than 30 years ago but will let him travel to a PLO council meeting from Damascus.

Mr Abbas dismissed the government led by militant group Hamas after it seized control of Gaza last month.

Mr Abbas and Israeli PM Ehud Olmert are scheduled to hold talks this week.

Mr Hawatmeh is the head of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

He is expected to attend a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s central council, being organised by Mr Abbas.

This would be his first visit to Palestinian territories since the 1967 war.

The DFLP was held to blame for an attack on a school in the northern Israeli town of Maalot in 1974 that left 24 Israelis, mostly children, dead.

Militants’ pledge

BBC Middle East analyst Karen O’Brien says Israel is trying to bolster Mr Abbas and his Fatah faction after its defeat by Hamas in Gaza.

Israeli officials have also said they are considering a plan to stop searching for many wanted Palestinian militants if they agree to end attacks on Israel.

The deal is reported to involve about 180 fighters in the West Bank affiliated to Fatah.

One is Zakaria Zubeidi, leader of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Jenin, who said he was willing to make the pledge.

“The al-Aqsa Brigades will not be an obstacle to any political project to solve the Palestinian question in a just manner,” he said.

The measure will be one of those likely to be discussed by Mr Olmert and Mr Abbas at a meeting scheduled for Monday, which will probably be held in Jerusalem.

Another will be the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

Mr Olmert is expected to list about 250 inmates, mainly Fatah members, to be freed.

Israel has taken a number of steps to support Mr Abbas since Hamas, which calls for Israel’s destruction, took control of Gaza by force.

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