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Israeli PM Warns Arafat Could Be Targeted for Assassination - 2004-04-02


Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is promoting his plan for unilateral disengagement from the Palestinians and warns Yasser Arafat that he, too, could be a target for assassination. The prime minister's comments were made in interviews with Israeli media.

In interviews with major Israeli newspapers, Mr. Sharon spoke of his desire to implement the disengagement plan, which calls for an Israeli withdrawal from all, or most of the Gaza Strip, and for the dismantling of several Jewish settlements in the northern West Bank.

The prime minister has been promoting his plan both at home and abroad. On Thursday, he met with visiting American Middle East envoys to discuss the issue, and he is due to present the plan to President Bush in Washington later this month.

Washington has hesitated to endorse any unilateral actions, and, instead, wants to see a return to the internationally sanctioned road map peace plan.

The Palestinians are also wary of the Sharon plan. Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said this week the disengagement plan could be a positive step, if it leads to the resumption of broader peace efforts.

In the various interviews, Mr. Sharon also had a warning for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, suggesting that he and the head of the Lebanese-based Hezbollah guerrilla group, Hassan Nasrallah, could both be targets for assassination. Mr. Sharon said that anyone who kills or harms Jews, or sends people to attack Jews is a marked man.

Last week, Israel assassinated Hamas chief Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and, afterward, Israeli army chief Moshe Ya'alon said Mr. Arafat and Sheikh Nasrallah understand that their time is approaching.

Mr. Arafat has been confined to his mostly destroyed compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah for some two years now, at times surrounded by Israeli troops and tanks. He has repeatedly denied Israeli charges that he is responsible for and supports militant attacks against Israelis.

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