RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday that he could not bring law and order to the West Bank until Israel handed over control of cities there, and he called on the Jewish state to resume talks on the issue.
Israel promised to transfer control of five West Bank cities to Palestinian security forces last month. But it suspended talks after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed five Israelis at a Tel Aviv nightclub Feb. 25.
Israeli officials said there would be no talks until the Palestinians found those behind the bombing, and they accused Abbas of dragging his feet.
Abbas told reporters in Ramallah on Saturday: "Nobody can say we hold responsibility for the situation because we do not have a presence in the cities."
Islamic Jihad leaders have claimed responsibility for the attack. Abbas has been trying to persuade militant groups to disarm, but many militants have become virtual rulers of Palestinian cities during the last four years of violence and are reluctant to give up their power.
The militias have undermined Abbas' recent attempts to take control, firing on Palestinian officials and police officers twice in the last week.
Abbas on Saturday sent police into a village near the West Bank city of Hebron, where they arrested 12 people accused of burning three police cars.