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Sharon Gathers Support for Gaza Pullout Plan Amid Palestinian Outrage.

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip launched mortar and rocket attacks at Jewish settlements on Monday, amid rising anger over Israel's killing of Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi. Meanwhile, support is growing within Israel for the Prime Minister's plan to remove all settlements and troops from the territory.

Palestinians fired two homemade Kassam rockets early Monday at a Jewish settlement in the northern Gaza Strip, injuring one resident who was treated for shrapnel wounds. This was one in half-a-dozen attacks against Jewish settlements in the territory since Sunday, including rockets, mortar shells and anti-tank missiles. Six rockets were also fired from Gaza into Israel itself, landing near communities in the western Negev region. There were no reports of injuries.

And in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on a car at the entrance to the Jewish settlement bloc of Gush Katif. The latest violence comes one day after tens of thousands of Palestinians took part in the funeral for the Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, Abdel Aziz Al-Rantisi, who was killed in an Israeli military helicopter strike on Saturday.

Hamas, which is listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization, has vowed to launch 100 violent attacks against Israel to avenge his death. Hamas also said it has already appointed a new leader in Gaza but will not name him for fear he would become the next target of the Israeli Army.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has gained majority support within the cabinet for his plan to unilaterally remove Jewish settlements and troops from the Gaza Strip. The majority was reached when Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and two other ministers, declared they would vote in favor of the plan. Netanyahu said Monday Israel would spend millions of dollars in West Bank settlements. All three are members of the ruling Likud Party that is set to hold a referendum on Sharon's proposals early next month. A victory in the poll would set the stage for the plan to go before the Cabinet and the parliament for approval.

Ahead of the referendum, Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidim have opened their own campaign against "disengagement". Beginning Monday, 500 buses are traveling around the country with signs reading: "The Lubavitcher Rebbe warns: Running away from Gush Katif is a terrible danger for millions of Jews." INN reported that the campaign is the work of the Rabbi Yekutiel Rap, a senior Chabad-Lubavitch leader in New York and the operator behind the Central Committee for Saving the People and the Land.

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Publication:Israel Faxx
Date:Apr 20, 2004
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