Nearly 600 newly trained Palestinian troops took up positions in this tense city on Saturday, as part of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' attempt to expand his control in the West Bank and keep the Islamic militant Hamas in line.
Hebron, a former Hamas stronghold, is the third Palestinian city to be reinforced with Abbas' forces. The pre-dawn deployment signaled growing security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
An Israeli army statement said, however, that the Palestinian operation was a temporary measure to help combat Hamas and maintain public order and did not constitute a transfer of overall security responsibility from Israeli to Palestinian forces.
The troops arrived before dawn, during the Jewish Sabbath, a time apparently chosen to prevent protests by hundreds of Israeli settlers who live in several heavily fortified enclaves in the city.
Hebron is divided into an Israeli-controlled downtown area, and the larger Palestinian-run sector of the city.
In recent months, Abbas has been trying to take over more areas of the once unruly West Bank, though Israel retains overall security control. Abbas' forces deployed first in the cities of Nablus and Jenin, and now in Hebron, targeting local thugs, criminals and Hamas supporters.
The militants seized control over Gaza by force in June 2007, leaving Abbas only in control of the West Bank. Abbas has closed Hamas-linked organizations and arrested hundreds of supporters to prevent Hamas from taking over the West Bank.