Israel's Sharon- Soldiers, settlers to be pulled from all of Ga

JERUSALEM -- Prime Minister Ariel Sharon revealed the scope of his withdrawal plan Friday, saying Israel will leave all of the Gaza Strip and dismantle four West Bank settlements.

But there were reports of violence in both region hours later.

A Palestinian gunman attacked the West Bank settlement of Avnei Hefets early today, killing an Israeli man and wounding his daughter before he was shot and killed, rescue services said.

Israeli troops, meanwhile, killed two Palestinians in separate incidents in Gaza and the West Bank, according to officials from both sides.

On Friday, Israeli riot police stormed a disputed holy site in Jerusalem's walled Old City, firing plastic bullets, stun grenades and canisters of tear gas to disperse hundreds of Palestinian youths who were throwing stones and shoes at them. Thousands of Muslims barricaded themselves in two mosques in the elevated compound for two hours before police agreed to let them leave.

The clash was the most violent at the walled Al Aqsa Mosque compound since deadly rioting there in September 2000 led to widespread clashes with Israeli forces and the conflict that continues more than three years later.

The quick and overwhelming response by police at a sensitive religious site -- along with new threats by Sharon against Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat -- reflected an Israeli determination not to show weakness at a time when Israel is talking of withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.

Sharon is also fighting for his political future. His critics believe his Gaza pullout plan, and the burst of activity to bring it about, is tied to allegations he accepted bribes and an upcoming ruling from the attorney general on whether Sharon should stand trial.

The prime minister, they say, is trying to create an atmosphere of national crisis in which it becomes increasingly difficult for an indictment.

"My hands are clean," Sharon said of the bribery charges in comments published Friday.

Sharon said the withdrawal would get under way within a year and amount to a departure from all of Gaza, except for a patrol road along the territory's border with Egypt that the military says is crucial for combating weapons smuggling.

"We need to get out of Gaza, not to be responsible anymore for what happens there," Sharon told the Maariv daily.

"I hope that by next Passover we will be in the midst of disengagement, because disengagement is good for Israel."

After the withdrawal, Israel would consider cutting off the water and electricity it currently supplies to parts of Gaza if attacks against Israelis continue, the prime minister told the Yediot Ahronot newspaper.

Beforehand, Sharon said he would order a halt to any new construction in Gaza's 21 Jewish settlements, all of which are to be removed under the plan. Initially, Sharon considered holding onto three of the enclaves in northern Gaza.

Maariv quoted Sharon as saying that in the northern West Bank, Israel would abandon four isolated enclaves -- Ganim, Kadim, Homesh and Sanur. A Sharon spokesman, Raanan Gissin, confirmed the remarks.

On another issue, Sharon told Haaretz that once Israel completes its West Bank separation barrier, Palestinians living illegally in Israel -- who he said numbered in the tens of thousands -- will be expelled.

About 220,000 Israelis live in more than 150 settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The confrontation at Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque compound, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, site of their biblical temples, began after Muslim noon prayers.

More than 20 Palestinians were injured, Muslim clerics said, and police said they arrested 14 Palestinians. Associated Press Television News cameraman Rauhi Razem was injured in the ear when a stun grenade went off nearby, and he required stitches.

"I was praying. I barely finished praying, I started hearing heavy shooting, and I couldn't believe that kind of aggression from the Israelis on a place of worship," said Danny Bundakji, a Muslim chaplain from the Los Angeles Police Department who is visiting the area.

In interviews with three Israeli newspapers ahead of next week's Passover holiday, Sharon said Arafat and Lebanese guerrilla chief Hassan Nasrallah could become targets of assassination. Last month, Israel assassinated Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

Asked by Haaretz whether Arafat and Hezbollah's Nasrallah are targets for assassination, Sharon said: "I wouldn't suggest that either of them feel immune."

Arafat's aides said Friday they are taking the new threats against the Palestinian leader's life seriously. It was unclear if Sharon's remarks meant he would continue to honor assurances to U.S. officials that Israel would not harm Arafat.

In Washington, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said, "Our position on such questions -- the exile or assassination of Yasser Arafat -- is very well known. We are opposed and we have made that very clear to the government of Israel."

Sharon has repeatedly accused Arafat of involvement in attacks on Israelis, saying he encourages and finances militants. In September, Israel's Cabinet decided that Arafat should be "removed" -- an intentionally vague statement that could mean he would be expelled or killed.

With such threats and several military raids, Israel has kept Arafat confined to his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah for more than two years.

In other developments Friday, an Israeli tank shelled a border area with the Gaza Strip after nightfall, killing one Palestinian, Palestinian security officials said. An army spokesman said troops fired at three "suspicious figures" spotted in an off-limits military zone, killing one. The other two fled.

Another Palestinian was killed by army fire east of Gaza City, Palestinian security sources said. The army spokesman said he was not aware of that incident.

An army spokesman said soldiers shot the youth as he was preparing to throw a firebomb at them in the midst of a clash between troops and a few dozen stone throwers.

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