The Israeli defense minister has approved a proposal to delay a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip by three weeks, clearing the way for top officials to make a final decision on the plan.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz previously had sent mixed signals about delaying the pullout from July 20 until after August 14, when an annual Jewish mourning period ends.  But he accepted the delay at a meeting with top officials Thursday.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told reporters the Gaza pullout will go forward, but he also vowed to build more housing in the West Bank.  The United States has repeatedly said that such construction violates the internationally-backed peace plan known as the "road map".

Meanwhile, the Israeli army said Palestinian militants detonated a roadside bomb in Gaza Thursday, wounding one soldier.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AP.