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Israeli Troops to Begin Withdrawal from Parts of Gaza, West Bank - 2003-06-29

Reports from Israel say Israeli troops will begin pulling out of the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun and surrounding area by Monday.

Israeli media report that the decision to withdraw follows a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian officials in the Gaza Strip.

The general outlines of the pullout were agreed to in a meeting Friday between Palestinian Minister for Security Mohamed Dahlan and Israel's coordinator in the territories, General Amos Gilad.

Israeli military sources are quoted as saying that Israeli troops will remain in place around Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip after the pullout.

Israel Radio reports the Palestinians have pledged to fight terrorism, but did not make an explicit commitment to dismantle the terror infrastructure as Israel has wanted.

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice met with Israeli Prime Minister Arial Sharon, who provided the American official with details of the security transfer. He also spelled out the measures Israel will take to ease restrictions on Palestinians.

Ms. Rice held talks Saturday with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

The American official issued invitations to come to the White House to both Mr. Abbas and Mr. Sharon.

Meanwhile, announcement of a joint truce declaration by Palestinian militant groups has been delayed until at least Monday.

Palestinian cabinet minister Yasser Abed Rabbo says a disagreement over wording of the ceasefire agreement has caused the delay. The leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad have said their groups have agreed to a three-month suspension of attacks on Israel. But the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the militant wing of Yasser Arafat's mainstream Fatah faction, has complained they were not consulted in the negotiations.

Two smaller militant groups, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, have rejected the call for a ceasefire.