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Israel Plans Unilateral Moves If Summit Fails

Israel will push forward with plans to withdraw from some Palestinian areas and draw its own borders if a summit between Israeli and Palestinian leaders next week doesn't revive a peace plan, an aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) said Saturday.

The Israeli and Palestinian leaders tentatively agreed to meet Tuesday if a final planning session goes well on Sunday.

Meanwhile Saturday, Israeli soldiers shot dead two Palestinian militants who were crawling through an off-limits zone toward a fence separating the Gaza Strip (search) from Israel, the military said.

The men were armed with assault rifles, 10 grenades and a pipe bomb, and apparently planned to cross the fence to attack an Israeli farming village, the military said.

A long-delayed first summit between Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (search) will focus on jump-starting the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan, stalled since it was launched last June. The plan aims to end more than three years of fighting and create a Palestinian state next year.

But neither side has met first-phase requirements under the plan, which was drawn up by the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.

The Palestinians have refused to crack down on militant groups that have killed more than 450 people in suicide bombings alone, in addition to staging numerous shooting attacks. And Israel has not gone ahead with troop pullbacks or frozen construction in Jewish settlements built on land in the West Bank (search) and Gaza Strip that Palestinians want for their future country.

Amid the deadlock, Sharon has threatened to pursue unilateral moves to "disengage" from the Palestinians. Israel would pull troops and settlers out of nearly all of Gaza and perhaps also parts of the West Bank. Israel would then draw its own temporary border with the West Bank, but one that would leave the Palestinians with much less land than they seek.

Palestinians fear Sharon's plan is to pull forces out of Gaza, but further entrench Israel in large parts of the West Bank, making it impossible to create a viable independent state there.

There are also suspicions that Sharon's talk of unilateral moves means Israel is quietly abandoning the concept of a negotiated solution to generations of Mideast conflict.

For now, Israel is pursuing both the peace program and its plan for a unilateral separation if the road map leads nowhere.

"We are proceeding with the road map as if there is no disengagement plan and proceeding with the disengagement plan as if there is no road map," Sharon adviser Assaf Shariv told The Associated Press.

But a failure to nail down progress on the peace plan in next week's summit could bring Israel a step closer to implementing the disengagement plan, Shariv said.

"If we don't advance in the road map, then we have our own plan," he said. However, Shariv stopped short of saying Israel would abandon the road map altogether.

Palestinian officials also said the road map plan would be at the center of the summit.

A high-ranking Palestinian official said the two leaders would form committees to work out a timetable and logistics for an Israeli troop pullback to lines held before fighting broke out in September 2000. The road map calls for such a pullback.

The two Palestinians killed Saturday were sent by the military wing of the radical Islamic Hamas and a smaller Gaza militant group called the Ahmed Abu al-Resh Brigades (search), whose members come from Arafat's Fatah movement.

The military suspects the men were planning to attack the kibbutz of Nahal Oz, which is just across the fence.

Also, Israeli forces arrested three suspected weapons smugglers along the Gaza-Egypt border and confiscated bags containing 30 Kalashnikov rifles, an army spokesman said Saturday.

In another development, a 29-year-old Palestinian woman deported from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip more than a year ago for sewing explosives belts worn by suicide bombers will return home Sunday, Israeli military officials and Palestinians said.

Earlier this month, an Israeli appeals committee cut Intisar Ajouri's sentence by half a year, clearing the way for her release.