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Gaza boats mass to mark pullout
by BBC (reposted)]
Friday Aug 12th, 2005 7:10 PM
Thousands of Palestinians have held a fishing boat rally in the harbour of Gaza City to celebrate the imminent withdrawal of Israeli settlers.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told the crowds that the moment marked a step towards an independent state.

All 8,000 Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip, and hundreds in the West Bank, are preparing for evacuation.

"Today, our march to freedom begins. Tomorrow, it will be Jenin's turn and after that Jerusalem," Mr Abbas said.

Residents are due to start moving out of their homes in the Gaza Strip on Monday.


People gathered in the harbour wore T-shirts supporting calls for Palestinian rule, as flags fluttered from the fishing vessels.

"From here, our people begin the march towards establishing an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital," Mr Abbas said.

The crowd cheered Mr Abbas' popular name in reply: "Abu Mazen, Abu Mazen" as lines of fishermen watched from boats in the water.

Israel, worried about arms reaching militant groups in Gaza, has imposed heavy restrictions on the fishermen.

Mr Abbas told them that soon they would be able to fish the along the length of Gaza's coastline.

"We have been waiting for this minute for ages," Rabiya Hissi, the wife of a fisherman, told the Associated Press news agency.

"We have been waiting for joy and peace in our streets instead of blood and fear."
by more
Friday Aug 12th, 2005 7:16 PM
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has joined thousands of Gazans celebrating along the beachfront ahead of Israel's withdrawal from the occupied territory, due to start next week.

"From here, our people begin the march towards establishing an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital," said Abbas.

Thousands of Palestinians waved flags, danced and sang in the afternoon sunshine while fishing boats flew the national colours of black, white, red and green.

Many wore T-shirts with portraits of Abbas and his late predecessor Yasser Arafat.

Israel will begin removing residents from 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and four of 120 in the West Bank on 17 August.

Palestinians welcome the pullout, though they fear the plan is a ruse to trade tiny Gaza for much of the West Bank and deny them the state they seek with Jerusalem as its capital.

Most Israelis back the plan for withdrawing from Gaza, where 8500 Jewish settlers live alongside 1.4 million fenced-in Palestinians.

Israeli extremists say it gives up a Jewish birthright and rewards the Palestinian uprising.

Abbas has vowed to prevent attacks on the withdrawing Jewish settlers by Palestinian resistance groups following a six-month calm.

Security concerns

Palestinian cabinet minister Mohammad Dahlan said Abbas attended the celebration against the recommendation of security officials, who were worried about his personal safety.

The United States hopes the pullout plan will restart talks on a peace road map, but Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon insists there will be no discussion of statehood until Palestinians dismantle all resistance groups - a condition of the peace plan.

Israel has also failed to implement its own road map promise to freeze settlement building and remove settler outposts set up without even Israeli authorisation.

The World Court has said settlements on land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war are illegal. Israel has disputed this.