JERUSALEM (AP) — The strong U.S. endorsement of
Israel’s “disengagement” plan left angry
Palestinian leaders scrambling to galvanize international
opposition yesterday.

Yasser Arafat vowed to “defend our land and sacred
places,” and to stand by a demand that Palestinians be
allowed to return to their homes in Israel.

Also yesterday, Israel’s attorney general ordered an
unprecedented freeze on funding for settlement construction, saying
the government broke a promise not to divert money to unauthorized
settlement outposts in the West Bank.

In Gaza, 20 Palestinians were hurt, four of them critically,
when an Israeli helicopter gunship fired a missile during a raid of
a refugee camp, doctors said.

Sharon’s disengagement plan won strong backing Wednesday
from President Bush. Israel would withdraw from all of the Gaza
Strip and four small West Bank settlements, and impose a boundary
on the Palestinians.

While voicing support for an independent Palestinian state, Bush
also gave unprecedented U.S. backing for Israel to hold on to some
settlements in the West Bank. He also ruled out allowing
Palestinian refugees to return to Israel after a Palestinian state
is created.

Those concessions enraged the Palestinians, who want an
independent state in all of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem,
area Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.

Arafat did not directly refer to Bush’s speech yesterday,
but said that “our destiny is to defend our land and sacred
places and our rights in freedom and independence and the return of
the refugees … to their homeland.”

Palestinian leaders held a series of meetings to try to gather
international support.

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