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Arafat unbowed in face of Sharon's remarks

Palestinian leader rallies supporters after implied threat on his life

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Yasser Arafat
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Ariel Sharon

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat told cheering supporters Saturday that he has a message that the Israeli prime minister should hear:

"I tell Sharon and his gang, 'Oh mountain, the wind will never move you.'"

The pronouncement came a day after Ariel Sharon said he no longer believes he is bound to a pledge he made to President Bush not to target Arafat in Israel's effort to crack down on Palestinian terrorism.

Arafat spoke outside his Ramallah compound in the West Bank.

"We have to remember what they call us, 'terrorists.' We are only defending our sacred icons and our rights."

Sharon's remarks on Israeli television drew a swift response from the White House. The United States does not have any relationship with Arafat, accusing him of having instigated terrorism and refusing to take action to crack down on terrorist groups.

But the administration staunchly opposes the assassination of the Palestinian leader. U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice spoke Friday with Dov Weisglass, Sharon's chief of staff, and a U.S. official told CNN that the White House "made it entirely clear to the Israeli government that we would oppose any such action.... We consider a pledge a pledge."

Arafat told his supporters Saturday that they are part of a "heroic people with its women and its men and its prisoners and detainees... this people doesn't kneel except for God."

He added, "We will always be together, hand-in-hand together, until Palestine until Palestine until Palestine."

He chanted a slogan "to Jerusalem we are going in millions."

4 Palestinians killed

Also on Saturday, Israeli military forces clashed with Palestinian militants in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, and three Palestinians were killed in the shoot-out, Israeli and Palestinian security officials said.

Israeli military officials said the three were planning an attack on an Israeli target.

Palestinian officials said two of those killed were apparently members of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant offshoot of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. The group carries out terrorist attacks against civilians.

Palestinian officials said the third person killed was a 15-year-old boy.

Palestinian security sources also later said six people were wounded, including three children, but all had light to moderate injuries.

Palestinian officials said the incident began when Israeli troops, backed by armored vehicles and attack helicopters, entered Jenin around noon.

Israeli military officials said troops went to carry out arrests and surrounded a building where the militants were hiding. An armed Palestinian emerged and opened fire, wounding a soldier. An exchange of gunfire followed, and the three Palestinians were killed.

In another incident, Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian militant and seriously wounded another in an attempted arrest raid in the Palestinian village of Qabatiyeh near Jenin, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.

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