RAMALLAH, West Bank Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Saturday brushed off new Israeli threats, telling several thousand supporters that Israel would never get rid of him.
Arafat spoke a day after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he was no longer bound by an earlier promise to Washington not to harm the Palestinian leader.
Speaking in poetic Arabic to the cheering crowd, Arafat referred to himself as a "mountain."
"I tell Sharon and his gang, 'Oh mountain, the wind will never move you,'" he declared.
Behind the scenes, however, Arafat confidants said he was concerned about the latest threat.
In new violence, Israeli troops killed three militants in the West Bank town of Jenin, residents and witnesses said. The army said the men were preparing a suicide bombing inside Israel and were killed after they fired at soldiers who tried to arrest them. The men were members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militant group linked to Arafat's Fatah faction.
Sharon has accused Arafat of supporting Palestinian militants, who have killed more than 900 Israelis during 3 1/2 years of fighting.
The prime minister's remarks in an Israeli television interview Friday were seen as his strongest threat against Arafat yet. Coming ahead of a May 2 vote among 200,000 members of the ruling Likud Party on Sharon's plan for "unilateral disengagement" from the Palestinians, the warning was seen as an attempt to boost support among the most hawkish party members.
Polls have indicated that Sharon's plan for withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements has just a slight edge among Likud members. Defeat would be a serious blow to Sharon, and he would come under great pressure to step down.
In recent days, Sharon has backed away from a promise to honor the vote. He said that the referendum is only advisory.
In the Channel Two television interview, Sharon said he told President Bush in a White House meeting last week that he was no longer bound by a promise three years ago not to harm Arafat.
"My obligation no longer exists," Sharon said.