Sharon, King of Jordan Discuss Israeli Pullout

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Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) and Jordan's King Abdullah II (search) held secret talks at the Israeli leader's desert ranch to discuss a proposed Israeli pullback from parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israeli and Jordanian officials confirmed Friday.

In Jerusalem, an Israeli was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting apparently carried out by Palestinian militants, police spokesman Shmulik Ben-Ruby said. The man was jogging in a neighborhood that borders the West Bank when he was shot in the head. Police searched for the attacker in nearby Palestinian neighborhoods.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades (search), a militant group with loose ties to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the shooting in a phone call to The Associated Press.

In the Gaza Strip, troops in armored vehicles raided a Palestinian village in search of Hamas (search) militants, part of a new offensive in the strip. Twelve Palestinians were wounded in gun battles, including two boys, ages 12 and 15, who were in critical condition.

Four Israeli soldiers were wounded when Hamas detonated more than 220 pounds of explosives near a tank during the incursion.

King Abdullah flew by helicopter Thursday to Sharon's ranch in southern Israel, where he held a three-hour lunch meeting with the prime minister, according to Israeli media reports. The leaders discussed Sharon's disengagement proposal, which would include dismantling nearly all Israeli settlements in Gaza and some in the West Bank.

Jordan is concerned about any changes in the West Bank's status that could push Palestinians into the desert kingdom and upset its delicate demographic balance; half the residents of Jordan are Palestinians.

Such concerns prompted Jordan earlier this year to argue against Israel's West Bank separation barrier in hearings before the International Court of Justice (search). The barrier, about one-third completed, has already disrupted the lives of thousands of Palestinians.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the leaders met, but would not say what was discussed.

The Jordanian news agency Petra quoted a palace official as saying Abdullah made clear to Sharon that Jordan would oppose unilateral actions that could harm Palestinian hopes of establishing an independent state or that would move them from their land.

Abdullah told Sharon that an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza has to be the beginning of a "comprehensive Israeli withdrawal" and not a tactical move to transfer Gaza settlers to the West Bank, Petra reported.

In Gaza, Israeli tanks, armored personnel carriers and bulldozers raided the Mughraka village near the Israeli settlement of Netzarim on Friday. Apache helicopters firing machine guns flew overhead.

The army said it arrested two Hamas militants and blew up their houses.

Local officials said Israeli bulldozers destroyed a total of seven homes and ripped up the main road, damaging water pipes and cutting off electricity. Palestinian security officials said a local medical clinic was damaged.

The army denied wrecking more than two homes, and said it had no information of damage to the local infrastructure.

Troops pulled out Friday afternoon.

Israel launched a new offensive into Gaza this week following a twin suicide bombing in the Israeli seaport of Ashdod that killed 10 Israelis. In all, eight Palestinians have been killed and nearly 40 have been wounded in the Gaza offensive.

Israel has been stepping up activity in Gaza ahead of the withdrawal Sharon has proposed if peace talks with the Palestinians remain stalled.

During his meeting with Abdullah, Sharon promised the king that Israel would continue to guard the border crossings with Jordan, the Yediot Ahronot daily said. Sharon also assured the king that Israel would do everything to ensure the integrity of Jordan, it said.

The meeting was Sharon's first with an Arab leader since last June.

Sheik Ahmed Yassin, Hamas' founder, called the meeting a "real disaster."

"They are busy with meetings and normalization with the enemy, while they pretend they are acting in the interest of the Palestinian people," Yassin told The Associated Press. "The truth is, this nation is being bought and sold. This nation must instead be liberated by all Arab nations."

Yassin also accused Israel of stepping up its activity in Gaza in a futile attempt to claim victory ahead of a pullout. "They want to cover up for their mess and loss. The resistance is the only thing that made them think to leave the Gaza Strip," he said.