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Israel to dismantle outposts, ease travel limits

Four outposts scheduled for demolition

From Dawn Tamir

Israel is building a West Bank barrier that it says will keep out terrorists. Palestinians argue it will restrict their travel.
Israel is building a West Bank barrier that it says will keep out terrorists. Palestinians argue it will restrict their travel.

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Ariel Sharon
West Bank

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel announced Sunday it will evacuate four settlement outposts in the West Bank and ease restrictions on Palestinians in Gaza.

Such moves are among the steps called for in Phase I of the so-called road map for Middle East peace backed by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

The Israeli Defense Ministry said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz signed an order Sunday to evacuate four outposts in the West Bank -- Bat Eyin, Havat Shaked, Hazon David and Ginot Arieh.

Palestinian officials, who repeatedly have called on Israel to dismantle outposts and ease travel restrictions, had no immediate response to Sunday's announcements.

Settlers have built dozens of what Israel calls "illegal outposts" without government permission in the hope of expanding Israeli territory in the West Bank.

Some outposts are clusters of makeshift buildings on the outskirts of larger settlements; others are little more than trailer camps. Israeli authorities have evacuated and destroyed several over the years.

The settlements themselves arose in the West Bank and Gaza after Israel occupied the territories during the 1967 Six Day War and 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Under the road map, Israel agreed to freeze all settlement expansion and to dismantle illegal outposts built since March 2001.

Phase I of the road map was supposed to have been completed by May 2003. Under the road map, Palestinians and Israel agreed to resolve their differences by 2005, at which time an independent Palestinian state would be established.

A Defense Ministry spokeswoman said only a handful of people live at each of the four outposts scheduled for demolition by Sunday's announcement. Residents have 10 days to appeal the decision to Israeli courts.

Residents who wish the area to be part of Israel are expected to resist their removals, and the Israeli army will handle the evacuations, the Defense Ministry spokeswoman said. Additional evacuations will be ordered in the coming weeks, she said.

Starting Monday in Gaza, all Palestinian workers over 35 who have families will be allowed to enter Israel to work, the Israeli army announced. About 4,000 people over 28 with families will also be allowed in, the army said.

In some cases, some workers over 24 with families will be allowed to enter as well.

The moves come after a week of bloodshed in the region. On Thursday, a suicide bombing at a major Tel Aviv-area intersection killed four people and wounded 20.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility.

The PFLP is a Palestinian militant group that has committed international terrorist attacks and conducted attacks against Israeli and moderate Arab targets, according to the U.S. State Department. It claimed responsibility for the killing of Israeli Cabinet member Rechavam Zeevi in October 2001.

Thursday's attack was the first suicide bombing in Israel since an October 4 bombing in Haifa that killed 21 people.

The same day, Israel launched an airstrike against an Islamic Jihad leader. Palestinian security sources said the strike killed two Islamic Jihad leaders, left a third in critical condition and killed three other people.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a militant group dedicated to the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel. The group has targeted Israeli soldiers and Israeli civilians.

Shooting of Israeli protester probed

Also Sunday, Israeli military police opened an investigation into the shooting of an Israeli protester at a demonstration Friday near Qalqilya. Gil Naamati, 22, was in serious condition late Sunday.

"The incident is a grave one," the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. "The IDF is determined to investigate fully in order to draw the necessary conclusions."

Hundreds of protesters were demonstrating against a barrier Israel is building along the West Bank. Israel says the barrier is designed to stop Palestinian terrorists from entering Israel and killing civilians. The Palestinians see it as a land grab that will divide communities and increase travel restrictions.

The army says a group of demonstrators attempted to cut and climb the barrier, and that soldiers warned them to move away and fired warning shots.

The demonstrators did not stop, and the soldiers opened fire in their direction, the army said. A U.S. citizen was wounded in the incident but was soon released from the hospital.

Saturday night, IDF forces near Nablus demolished the house of a Hashem abu Hamda, the man believed to have organized a suicide bombing at a commercial center four months ago that killed one Israeli and wounded nine others.

He was also responsible for an attack on an IDF unit in Tulkarem in October that wounded a soldier, the army said.

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