Scores of Fatah fighters in the West Bank have signed a pledge not to attack against Israel in return for an Israeli promise to stop pursuing them, a Palestinian security official said Sunday.
The deal would grant amnesty to 178 Fatah gunmen who will join the official Palestinian security forces, and Israel will remove them from its lists of "wanted" people, the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to divulge details of the agreement.
An official in Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office confirmed the deal would extend to "wanteds" who openly pledges not to attack Israel, and was part of a series of measures to bolster Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The president set up a Fatah-led government in the West Bank after his rivals from the Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in mid-June.
Abbas, Olmert to meet on Monday
Israel and the international community back Abbas in his struggle against Hamas.
Olmert will meet Abbas on Monday, Olmert's office said, in the first meeting between the two leaders since a June 25 summit that followed the Hamas victory in Gaza. At the meeting, Olmert is expected to present a list of 250 Fatah prisoners Israel will release.
Israel will "allow" Nayef Hawatmeh
And in another gesture of support, Israel agreed to Abbas' request to allow Nayef Hawatmeh, an exiled Palestinian leader, to enter the West Bank this week for a meeting of a top Palestine Liberation Organization policy-making body, a step that Abbas hopes will provide him added legitimacy among Palestinians.
Hawatmeh heads the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a small and PLO faction.
The amnesty document began circulating Saturday among members of Fatah-allied groups dedicated to fighting Israel.
The Palestinian official said an "overwhelming majority" of the fighters have already signed. The Palestinians asked that another 200 fighters be included in the amnesty, he said.
Text of pledge
An Arabic text of the document obtained by The Associated Press reads in part: "The Israeli security and judicial authorities will refrain from arresting or pursuing me after I sign this document. I must be committed to the decisions of the Palestinian Authority and its security apparatus ... and refrain from carrying out any military or security activities against the Israelis."
Kamel Ghanam, a Fatah leader in Ramallah, said all 40 of the men in the city have signed the pledge.
"We feel that we have a new political atmosphere. We are optimistic," Ghanam said.
In other moves aimed at helping Abbas, Israel has begun transferring Palestinian tax revenues that were frozen after Hamas won a Palestinian election in 2006, drawing an international boycott. The money has allowed Abbas' government to resume paying salaries to civil servants.