Withdrawal from the Gaza Strip can be delayed

Some top Israeli army officers want to delay a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip for up to six months due to slow preparations and worries over the strength of Palestinian militants, a senior security source said on Sunday. But the army said the idea was not under discussion and did not reflect its position.

Talk of postponement has raised the hopes of Jewish settlers that they could still derail the plan to give up the occupied territory. It has already been put off for three weeks to mid-August because of a &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/world/2005/05/10/59666.html ' target=_blank>Jewish mourning period.

The security source said the senior officers had voiced concern about the slow pace of preparations for taking care of 8,500 settlers from Gaza and hundreds from the northern West Bank when they are evacuated.

The brass are also worried about a surge of violence in Gaza last week that dented a three-month-old ceasefire as well as the growing political strength of the Hamas militant group, which made a strong showing in recent elections, reports Reuters.

The talks aimed to help preserve the truce called by Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Egypt in February.

Palestinian militants had fired rounds of mortar bombs and rockets at Gush Katif settlements in Gaza hurting one Israeli after Israel killed a militant under disputed circumstances on Wednesday.

Israel has since killed two more Gaza gunmen, including one who opened fire on the Kfar Darom settlement Friday, and had threatened further retaliation to quieten the area before a planned &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/world/2005/05/09/59643.html ' target=_blank>Gaza pullout in mid-August.

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