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Israeli army chief visits Bethlehem

Oct. 3, 2010 5:00 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 5, 2010 9:28 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli military's chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi met Palestinian Authority security officials in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Sunday.

Ashkenazi arrived in Bethlehem with a delegation of senior Israeli officers on a visit coordinated by PA security, Bethlehem Governor Abdel Fattah Hamiyel said.

Hamiyel said the army chief visited the Church of the Nativity and toured the area before meeting with PA security chief in Bethlehem Suleiman Imran, head of security coordination Abu Harab, and Bethlehem police chief Khaled At-Tamimi. An Israeli military official confirmed Sunday's tour.

Israeli authorities requested the visit to discuss issues related to the daily life of residents, the governor said. They discussed movement restrictions, allowing farmers to access their lands, and developing the tourism industry, as well as plans to facilitate the upcoming olive harvest, Hamiyel said.

No political issues were discussed, the governor said insisting the visit did not contradict the PA's stance against continuing negotiations with Israel in the wake of renewed settlement expansion. Rather, the visit was to address ways to ease the daily suffering of Palestinians under Israeli occupation, he said.
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