Quraya cautious of Sharon's Gaza plan

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya has cautiously welcomed Israel's plan to withdraw from the occupied Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, but only as a first step in peace efforts.

    Quraya called for plan to include a pullout from the West Bank

    Wednesday's comments were Quraya's first on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's so-called "disengagement plan".

    Quraya said the Gaza plan could create further obstacles to peace without a full withdrawal from the occupied West Bank and called for cooperation to avoid falling "into a trap". 

    The Palestinian premier was speaking on the eve of the arrival of US envoys to the region.

    The details of Sharon's new plan remained unclear, but it likely involved a pullback from all or most of Gaza and a far smaller withdrawal from a few West Bank Jewish settlements.

    Under international law, all Jewish settlements are illegal, a stance not recognised by Israel.

    Palestinians fear a unilateral withdrawal will demarcate the borders of a future Palestinian state and annex large swathes of the West Bank.

    More violence

    Meanwhile, Israeli occupation troops shot dead two Palestinians near the Jewish settlement bloc of Gush Katif in the occupied Gaza Strip.

    The Palestinians were killed on Wednesday near the Deve Dekalim settlement, reported our correspondent.

    Palestinian medics were unable to retrieve the bodies from a closed military zone, said Palestinian security sources.  

    Israeli occupation authorities claimed both men were trying to carry out a resistance attack.

    Members of Abu Rish, a Khan Yunis-based offshoot of the mainstream Fatah group, named one dead man as Muhammad Abu Awda, 29.

    They said he was killed in a failed attack. The identity of the second casualty is still unclear.

    Tensions have been high in Gaza since Israel assassinated Hamas spiritual leader and founder Shaikh Ahmad Yasin last week.

    Hamas has vowed to retaliate and Israel pledged to carry out more assassinations of resistance leaders, a policy condemned by the international community.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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