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Friday, April 16, 2004
U.S. REJECTS ISRAEL INVASION OF GAZA

U.S. REJECTS ISRAEL INVASION OF GAZA
WASHINGTON [MENL] -- The United States has rejected an Israeli request for
the right to invade the Gaza Strip following a unilateral withdrawal.

U.S. officials said the Bush administration refused to approve Israel's
right to invade the Gaza Strip should the area be used as a staging ground
for Palestinian attacks against the Jewish state. They said Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon sought a written commitment by President George Bush that the
United States would understand such a military response in any Israeli
effort to halt Palestinian attacks from the Gaza Strip.

Sharon, who met Bush on Wednesday, sought the inclusion of a U.S.
understanding for massive Israeli military retaliation as part of the
president's letter on the Israeli plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and
parts of the West Bank. Instead, Bush agreed to reaffirm U.S. support for
Israel's right of self-defense. On Wednesday, Bush and Sharon exchanged
letters regarding the Israeli withdrawal plan.

"It doesn't talk about a right to go back in [Gaza]," a senior
administration official said of the Bush letter. "So what our hope is, that
we can, working with states in the region, help the Palestinian institutions
to take responsibility for security and to fight terror, because that's
what's called for them to do in the roadmap and that will obviate all the
rest of the discussion."
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