Abbas was elected head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) by its executive council last week, after its previous chairman, Yasir Arafat, succumbed to a mysterious illness.

 

Abbas is to hold talks with security chiefs in his Gaza City offices and later meet with representatives of the main Palestinian factions, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine groups, and the mainstream Fatah movement.

 

Abbas is in pole position to replace Arafat as head of the Palestinian Authority in an election on 9 January 2005.

Before the veteran leader died, Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya held similar talks with the factions and security personnel, who stressed the need to avoid internal conflict and violence in a post-Arafat era.

Trail of death

 

Meanwhile, Israeli troops have withdrawn from the northern West Bank town of Jenin and its adjacent refugee camp, which they had been occupying for more than two weeks, according to an army spokesman. 

Israel says it has withdrawn its
troops from Jenin

"Our forces have left the sector and have been redeployed to take on their normal activities," the spokesman said.

 

The troops are said to have left the area overnight.

At least 25 Palestinians were arrested, according to a statement by an Israeli military official. He added that a large arms cache had also been found.

Two local leaders of the Islamic Jihad group and two local leaders linked to the mainstream Fatah movement were among those detained.

Four Palestinians suspected of involvement in resistance activities were killed during the operation, which began on 28 October.

According to Palestinian medics, nine people were killed and 25 wounded in the recent incursion.

Palestinian security sources put the number detained by Israeli forces at 40. 

Movements restricted

Israeli citizens, except those with special permits, have once again been banned from travelling to the Palestinian territories, the army said.

Freedom of movement is
restricted by Israeli checkpoints

The restrictions were temporarily eased to allow some people to attend Arafat's funeral in the West Bank on Friday.

The Israeli army re-enforced its ban on Monday on Palestinian police and security forces carrying weapons in the Ram Allah region of the West Bank, three days after the funeral of Arafat.

The army had lifted its shoot-on-sight orders for anyone seen carrying weapons in the city during the day of the Palestinian leader's funeral, and its immediate aftermath.

But the ban was re-imposed as of 6am (0400 GMT) on Monday, military sources said.