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Sharon says Gaza Withdrawal to Start in May 2005 - 2004-10-14

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says the planned evacuation of Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip will begin next May and will be completed in less than three months.

At a legislative briefing Thursday, Mr. Sharon also said Israel's ongoing Gaza military offensive, aimed at ending Palestinian rocket fire into southern Israel, seeks to ensure calm ahead of the withdrawal.

Mr. Sharon is seeking to persuade a majority of lawmakers to back the withdrawal plan, ahead of an October 25 Knesset vote.

Meanwhile, at least five more Palestinians are dead in Gaza, as Israeli troops and armor continue their weeks-long incursion.

Witnesses say Israeli missiles killed two suspected Hamas militants in two northern Gaza refugee camps. Two other suspected militants and an elderly man were killed in a separate Israeli sweep in southern Gaza.