It was the first major decision announced by the Palestinian leadership since Palestinian President Yasir Arafat was flown to hospital in Paris on 29 October.

Officials on Sunday said the plan was drafted in March and is more focused on ending local lawlessness than reining in resistance fighters waging a four-year-old uprising. The latter is a long-standing Israeli and international demand.

No action yet

Although the plan was approved months ago by various armed factions, no action has yet been taken. Cabinet minister Saib Uraiqat told reporters it would now take effect immediately.

Saib Uraiqat: The plan to enforce
law will take effect immediately

It calls for more security forces to be deployed and better coordination among them. It demands that fighters stop carrying arms unless confronting Israeli forces and says the police, rather than fighters, should deal with disturbances. 

Arafat and other officials often promised action on the security front, but little ever happened. Arafat complained that the Palestinian efforts to maintain order were sabotaged by Israel's destruction of their security forces during the uprising. 

Under pressure

Briefing Israel's cabinet, Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said there were signs that Palestinian leaders were trying to curtail violence. 

"There are indications that they are trying to close ranks and stop the Hamas terrorism, but there is no way of knowing if this will succeed," he said. 

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya came under pressure from the armed factions on Saturday to give them decision-making powers in a temporary unified leadership they want if Arafat dies. He did not say whether he had agreed.   

Yasir Arafat lay critically ill with liver failure on Sunday and his condition was not improving, a Palestinian official said.