GAZA STRIP Sharon offers details of withdrawal plan
Officials detained a Palestinian man wearing an explosive belt at the border.
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Prime Minister Ariel Sharon presented the most detailed timetable yet for a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip to his Likud Party today, and warned party rebels that the plan "will be implemented, period."
A Sharon ally in the Cabinet said the evacuation of Jewish settlements in Gaza could begin by the end of the year, or several months ahead of schedule.
The initial plan called for a withdrawal from Gaza and four small West Bank settlements in four stages, to be completed by September 2005. Each phase was to be presented to the Cabinet for approval.
However, with opposition mounting in Likud and in the Cabinet, Sharon has shifted tactics and is pushing for a swifter withdrawal. He also hopes to weaken settler resistance by making early advance payments on compensation that would encourage many of the 8,000 Gaza settlers to leave voluntarily in coming months, according to officials in Sharon's office, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In Gaza, meanwhile, a Palestinian man wearing an explosives belt hidden under his clothing was stopped at the Erez crossing into Israel. The man had waited in line with thousands of Palestinian workers making their way into Israel every morning.
Soldiers became suspicious when they spotted on him what looked like an activation device, the army said. Soldiers isolated him from the workers and ordered him to remove the explosives, which he did, the army said.
In Jerusalem, Sharon opened his meeting with Likud legislators with a warning not to sabotage the Gaza withdrawal.
"You know my views on the subject. The disengagement plan will be implemented, period," he said.
The first key date in Sharon's timetable for a Gaza withdrawal is Sept. 14, when the Cabinet is to approve the principles of compensating and evacuating settlers.
Officials said advance payments would be authorized at that session. On Sept. 26, Cabinet ministers will be given draft legislation for carrying out the withdrawal, and the bill will be approved by the Cabinet on Oct. 24, Sharon said.
By Nov. 3, the legislation will be presented to parliament for a first of three votes.