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Change In Gaza Evacuation Plans

Prime Minster Ariel Sharon wants all 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip evacuated at the same time, instead of in three stages, officials said Monday, reflecting a major shift in position.

On Monday, Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz presented the new plan to the Security Cabinet, a forum of senior ministers, setting off a heated debate.

Also Monday, Israeli officials confirmed Washington meetings between a senior Israeli diplomat and a Pentagon analyst being investigated by the FBI. The FBI wants to know if the analyst passed classified information to Israel. Israel is flatly denying allegations that it spied on the U.S., reports CBS News Correspondent Robert Berger.

According to Sharon's "unilateral disengagement" plan, the Gaza settlements were to be removed in three stages by the end of September 2005. Four small West Bank settlements are also to be removed.

Settlers and their backers have mobilized to try to scuttle the Gaza pullout, and there have been predictions of months of endless confrontations with the Gaza settlers in the months set aside for the gradual evacuation.

The Security Cabinet approved giving the military overall responsibility for removing the settlements, while assigning the job of taking the settlers out to the police, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Israel has proposed leaving a Gaza settlement intact to be used as a hospital after an Israeli pullout, and wants to sell an industrial zone on the edge of the coastal strip to international bodies, Israeli officials said.

Israel and the World Bank concluded a round of discussions about the planned pullout on Sunday, the officials said on condition of anonymity.

Israel told World Bank officials it wants to destroy the houses in all Israeli settlements in Gaza, except one. The bulldozed homes would be replaced by high-rise apartment buildings for Palestinians now living in refugee camps, while the buildings in the remaining settlement, which was not named, would be used as a hospital.

The plan to leave the hospital behind has outraged hawks in Sharon's Cabinet, reports Berger. They say handing Jewish territory to Palestinians who hate Israel is the antithesis of Zionism.

A diplomat said countries donating aid to Palestinians have asked the bank to explore rehabilitation options for Gaza. He said a final decision on how to rebuild Gaza would be taken by a committee of major donor nations.

Other analysts said they believed the concept of buying settlements or other properties built on war-won land was unlikely to win approval.

Meanwhile, an Israeli helicopter fired a missile toward a car carrying four Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank town of Jenin on Monday, but missed. The missile hit a nearby home, causing no injuries.

The apparent target was Mahmoud Abu Khalifeh, a local leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent group with ties to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

The Al Aqsa group in Jenin has claimed responsibility for an Aug. 11 bombing at an Israeli roadblock in the West Bank in which two Palestinian civilians were killed.

Abu Khalifeh said he was in the car when an explosion went off nearby. "We jumped out of the car and started firing randomly," he said. "We thought that the army was nearby."

An army statement acknowledging the failed attempt described the target as a "senior member of a terrorist organization in Jenin." It added, "The missile missed the target and incidentally damaged a house."

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