Israel's leader says he will hold on to main West Bank settlement blocs in final borders

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Tuesday that Israel will give up territory and relinquish control over most of the West Bank's Palestinians, while holding on to main settlement blocs his clearest statement about how he sees Israel's future final borders.

In his first broadcast interview since taking power last month, Olmert told Channel 2 TV that if his Kadima Party wins March 28 elections, Israel would hold on to Jerusalem and three major West Bank settlement blocs, along with the strategic Jordan River valley, and it might move by itself if no agreement can be reached with the Palestinians.

""We will disengage from most of the Palestinian population that lives in Judea and Samaria," Olmert told Israel's Channel 2 TV, using the biblical names for the West Bank. "That will obligate us to leave territories under Israeli control today."

Israel withdrew from Gaza in the summer, but violence continues there. Two Palestinian militants were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Tuesday.

The Israeli military said it targeted a car in Gaza City carrying Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades militants involved in producing rockets to be fired at Israel. Earlier Israeli artillery and aircraft pounded northern Gaza, where militants have been launching rockets. Three landed in Israel on Tuesday, causing some damage.

In the Gaza City airstrike Tuesday afternoon, the two militants were killed instantly and five bystanders were wounded, including two children. Al Aqsa identified the dead as senior commanders and threatened revenge against Israel. Since Thursday, Israel has killed nine Gaza militants in airstrikes.

In the West Bank, Israeli forces killed a wanted Islamic Jihad militant during an arrest raid in the city of Nablus. Two Israeli soldiers were also wounded in a shootout, an army spokesman said.

Militant groups threatened revenge against Israel for the Gaza and West Bank raids, reports AP.


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