Israel's Defense Ministry agreed on Thursday to a Palestinian request to let some police carry guns on the streets, in order to help end unprecedented internal unrest, Israeli security sources said.
Most members of Palestinian security forces in the West Bank stopped carrying weapons more than two years ago after some were killed in major incursions that Israel said were to root out militants involved in bombings and shooting attacks.
Israeli security sources said the Defense Ministry would only agree to the deployment of armed Palestinian police in areas that were not seen as hotbeds of militancy.
"All those policemen who will carry weapons will also have to be vetted by the Shin Bet," one source said, referring to Israel's internal security service.
Palestinian Negotiations Minister Saeb Erekat told Reuters he had not heard official word from Israel on the issue of arming the police and was still awaiting a high-level security meeting between the two sides.
Palestinian-run areas of the Gaza Strip (news - web sites) and West Bank have been gripped by unprecedented internal unrest since last month amid calls on veteran President Yasser Arafat (news - web sites) to sack corrupt officials and reform a plethora of security forces.
Palestinians accuse the Israelis of destroying their security structures during nearly four years of conflict, which began when peace talks foundered in 2000.
Israelis have often accused Palestinian forces of collaborating with militants.
(um...why do I get the feeling that this is NOT a good idea?)