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Israeli Parliament Rejects Referendum Bill on Gaza Withdrawal

The Israeli parliament has rejected a bill calling for a national referendum on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to evacuate settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip and four small West Bank enclaves later this year.

Monday's vote of 72-39 all but ends attempts by withdrawal opponents to derail the Gaza pullout.

Under the withdrawal plan, all 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza are to be evacuated, along with four of 120 settlements in the occupied West Bank. A referendum would have delayed the withdrawal for months from its July starting date.

Meanwhile, Israeli troops raided the West Bank Palestinian town of Jenin today, arresting eight accused members of Islamic Jihad. The Israeli army alleges the suspects were making crude rockets and mortars for future attacks.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP, Reuters.