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Friday, 18 October, 2002, 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK
Israel studies US peace plan
George Bush and Ariel Sharon
Bush presented the plan to Sharon at the White House
Israel says it is studying a United States plan to settle the conflict with the Palestinians by 2006.

Israeli media said US President George W Bush presented Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with a "road map" to peace during Mr Sharon's visit to Washington this week.

US peace plan
By mid-2003: end to Palestinian attacks; Palestinian reforms; freeze on Jewish settlements; Israeli troop withdrawal
By 2004: Palestinian elections; temporary Palestinian state
By 2006: Final peace settlement

It came as a US special envoy began a two-week tour of the Middle East on Friday, during which he will discuss details of the plan with Arab and Israeli leaders.

As the diplomacy got under way, there was more violence in the Gaza Strip on Friday when a Palestinian militant was killed and two Israeli soldiers injured in a gun battle near a Jewish settlement.

Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinians have attended the funerals of six Palestinians killed on Thursday when Israeli tanks fired at militants in the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza.

Staged plan

Mr Sharon arrived back in Israel on Friday morning, buoyed by three days of talks in Washington during which Mr Bush promised to give Israel advance notice of any US plan to attack Iraq.

Israeli soldier
The plan envisages an Israeli pullback

Israeli newspapers said President Bush also presented Mr Sharon with a blueprint to end the conflict with the Palestinians.

The plan is based on a speech Mr Bush delivered in June in which he outlined his vision for a final peace settlement.

According to media reports, the plan seeks Palestinian reforms, an end to Palestinian violence, a freeze on Jewish settlement building and an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian population centres by mid-2003.

It reportedly calls for Palestinian elections six months later and a temporary Palestinian state, with its final status settled by the end of 2005.

Mr Sharon said he would discuss the proposal with US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns when he visits Israel.

Mr Burns was due in Egypt on Friday at the start of a 13-nation Middle East tour for talks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, counter-terrorism and Iraq.

Anger over deaths

In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army killed a member of the Palestinian militant group Hamas who opened fire on soldiers near the northern settlement of Dugit on Friday morning.

Palestinian casualty in Rafah
Six Palestinians were killed by tank fire in Rafah

Two soldiers were wounded in the gun battle, the army said.

Members of Hamas, banned from marching in Gaza following armed clashes between Hamas supporters and Palestinian security forces, held a rally for the dead fighter near his home in the Jubaliyah refugee camp.

In Rafah, about 3,000 people - some of them armed and wearing masks - gathered for the funerals of Palestinians killed in clashes on Thursday.

Israel has expressed regret for the civilian deaths, while Palestinian militants have called for revenge.

Killings condemned

In response to the killings, the European Union called on Israel and the Palestinians to exercise restraint.

Russia added its voice to the condemnation on Friday.

A statement from the foreign ministry said: "While firmly condemning the terrorist actions of extremists, [Russia] views with great concern the disproportionately harsh operations carried out by Israeli forces."

Left-wing Israeli opposition leader Yossi Sarid said Israel should "stop its cruel war machine".

He told Israel radio it was no longer possible to explain or justify how so many innocent men, women and children were being killed by the Israeli army.

Key stories




See also:

18 Oct 02 | Middle East
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25 Jun 02 | Middle East
24 Jun 02 | Middle East
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