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Sharon to Present Revised Gaza Withdrawal Plan to Israeli Cabinet Next Sunday - 2004-05-23


Israeli officials say Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will complete his revised plan to withdraw from Jewish settlements this week and present it to his cabinet next Sunday.

Mr. Sharon has been revising the plan since his Likud party rejected the proposal in a May second referendum. The new plan reportedly calls for a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements in stages, rather than all at once.

At today's cabinet meeting, Israeli Justice Minister Yosef Lapid criticized the Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza strip last week.

More than 40 Palestinians have been killed and dozens of homes destroyed during the Israeli incursion into Rafah, which began last Tuesday. Israel says it is searching for militants and for tunnels used to smuggle weapons from Egypt.

Israeli military officials said Sunday the operation in Rafah is continuing.

Meanwhile, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees says Israeli soldiers shot at and detained a top agency official last week.

In a statement (released Sunday), the U.N. Relief and Works Agency says Israeli troops searched its offices in the West Bank town of Jenin Thursday and shot at manager Paul Wolstenholme. They say the official was handcuffed, blindfolded, threatened, and held for three hours.

Information for this report is provided by AP and Reuters.

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