Palestine self-rule begins

27 May 1994

Israel handed over control of Gaza and Jericho to Palestinian self-rule on 17 May after 27 years of occupation. Israeli troops, who completed their withdrawal from the Gaza Strip the following day, were attacked by stone throwing youths as the last convoys left their camps.

The documents to mark the handover of the civil administration were signed by Brigadier Dov Gazit and Palestinian negotiator Freij al-Khairi at the Erez checkpoint on the border with Israel. The 7,000 Palestinian members of the civil administration, once headed by 150 Israeli officials, will now run day-to-day affairs in the self-rule area.

The 24 members of the Palestine National Authority have still to be appointed by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. On 12 May, 15 members of the authority were announced, with the assurance that all had said they were willing to serve. But one of those named, the former spokeswoman for the Palestinian negotiating team Hanan Ashrawi, has already said she will not serve.

About 1,800 Palestinian police had entered the self-rule area by 18 May. One of their first tasks will be to see that all weapons held by Palestinians in the area are handed over or licensed. Palestinian extremists opposed to the PLO-Israeli accord say they will not surrender their weapons. Abu Mohamed Mustapha, the Damascus representative of the Islamist group Hamas, said the police should disarm Israeli settlers and soldiers first.

US Secretary of State Warren Christopher made an official visit to Jericho on 17 May, which was attacked by the Israeli right-wing parties because it gave credence to the idea of a future Palestinian state. It also implied the Palestinians were already setting their own foreign policy, which under the terms of the PLO-Israeli accord is in the jurisdiction of Tel Aviv.

However, Christopher also upset Palestinians by refusing to meet officials in Orient House in East Jerusalem, despite staying only a few minutes drive away. Analysts say the Clinton administration is moving towards accepting Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and no longer leaving it open to negotiation in final status talks.

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