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Israeli Gunman Kills at Least Three Palestinians in West Bank

An Israeli gunman has shot and killed at least three Palestinians and wounded at least two others near the West Bank settlement of Shiloh. The shooting occurred as Israeli troops began forcibly removing thousands of Jewish settlers and their supporters from settlements in the Gaza Strip.

The gunman, an Israeli driver, apparently stopped his car at the entrance to the Shiloh industrial zone, got out, asked the security guard there for a glass of water, then took the guard's gun, shot the two Palestinian passengers in his car, went into the industrial zone and opened fire there.

The attacker has been taken into custody.

Palestinian officials have called for the Israelis to bring the attacker to justice and Hamas spokesman Mushir al Masri has vowed the crime would not go unpunished.

The shooting raised fears of Palestinian retribution that could endanger the current Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

That withdrawal continued throughout the day as thousands of Israeli soldiers and police fanned out across settlements in Gaza to forcibly remove those settlers and supporters who remained defiant.

The soldiers met with a varying degree of resistance; ranging from pleading and crying to being pelted with water, eggs and paint.

Soldiers scuffled with some of the more violent protesters, especially in Neve Dekalim, the largest Gaza enclave.

Israeli authorities said the evacuation was going more quickly than expected and could be over in a matter of days, rather than weeks as was originally estimated.

As this crucial phase of the evacuation operation got under way, Prime Minster Ariel Sharon appealed to the settlers and their supporters not to resort to violence against the soldiers and police sent to remove them .

"Attack me, blame me alone, I am responsible for this," Mr. Sharon said. "It was my decision."

Under Mr. Sharon's disengagement plan, about 9,000 settlers will be evacuated from 21 settlements in Gaza and four small ones in the northern West Bank. In addition to defiant settlers, soldiers are also facing resistance from thousands of religious and nationalist militants who have infiltrated Gaza from Israel and some West Bank settlements.