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Forces deployed as Gaza pullout starts
by ALJ
Sunday Aug 14th, 2005 4:33 PM
Israeli and Palestinian forces have deployed to ensure calm in the final countdown to Israel's evacuation of Jewish settlements in the occupied Gaza Strip.
Thousands of Israeli police blocked approaches to Gaza to keep back Jewish protesters sworn to stopping the first removal of settlements this week from land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

The threat of disruptions to the pullout has grown with a recent influx of some 4000 ultranationalist Jews into Gaza settlements to reinforce hardliners among the 8500 inhabitants vowing to resist removal.

"We are on our highest alert," Israeli police commissioner Moshe Karadi said as roadblocks sprouted across southwest Israel to prevent more pullout foes slipping into the Gush Katif settlements or swamping exit routes inside Israel.

Palestinian comment

Speaking to Aljazeera by telephone from Gaza, Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Shaath said: "We have a momentary and incomplete confidence as we look forward to the evacuation of all territories Israel occupied in 1967.

"We feel the Gaza pullout is a first step towards getting our independence and freedom.

"With the departure of those colonisers, we smell the breeze of freedom and hope and that this step will open the way towards a just and real peace to build our country and regain our rights."

Shaath went on to say he believes the pullout does not represent full liberty. He said the withdrawal was without doubt the outcome of the Palestinians' steadfastness and great sufferings.

Whether the withdrawal was as a result of a political decision or mutual negotiations, the colonisers have finally left our lands, he said.

Settler resistance

"At this point people can leave but no one can enter," said army spokeswoman Miri Regev.

Settlers refusing to leave have decided to lock entry gates of their enclaves to army officers due to come on Monday to urge inhabitants to go voluntarily or be ejected by squads of unarmed troops starting on Wednesday, Israeli media said.

By rare agreement with Israel, 7500 Palestinian security men in Gaza began moving into position on the outskirts of the fortified settlements to ward off possible efforts by Palestinian resistance factions to shoot at departing settlers.

The security men, expected to station themselves as close as 150m from Israeli troops, would also prevent Palestinians going into empty settlements to seize property.

Nationalist sentiments

Wearing military fatigues and red caps and waving Palestinian national flags, the security forces brought mattresses and tents to pitch in their positions.

The Disengagement Plan gets rolling at midnight (2100 GMT) on Sunday when border crossings to settlements will be sealed.

On Monday, thousands of officers are to spread out through all 21 Gaza settlements and four of 120 in the West Bank, informing inhabitants they have 48 hours to go on their own.

Gaza settler council chairman Avner Shimoni declined to confirm enclave gates would be shut but told Israel Radio: "We definitely won't make it easy for those coming to expel us.

"If you ask me, 50 to 60% of us will remain and the rest will leave (before Wednesday)."

Some departures

There was a moderate flow of settlers departing Gush Katif on Sunday as vehicles pulling trailers piled with suitcases, mattresses and chairs passed the Kissufim crossing into Israel.

Polls show most Israelis favour Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's move to jettison Gaza and a bit of the West Bank to help defuse conflict with Palestinians in revolt.

Major General Dan Harel, Israeli commander for the Gaza theatre, said up to 4000 opponents of the pullout had got into the enclaves by overstaying visitor permits, hiding in car trunks or using other false pretences to outwit border controls.

"They won't prevent the army and police from carrying out the decisions of the cabinet and parliament. They will make it more colourful, I hope not more violent," Harel said.

Israeli troops

He said he hoped half the Gaza settlers would depart before Wednesday. Israel, which has devoted some 50,000 troops and police to the pullout, aims to have the settlers out by 4 September.

National Home, the radical Jewish group spearheading resistance in support of hardline settlers, called on supporters to block Gaza access roads with their bodies or cars.

It urged settlers to prepare for soldiers reaching their houses by barricading doors and windows and tying themselves to furniture and fences. If hustled into evacuation buses, settlers "should fight to get off, even through windows".

Israeli military correspondents said the army was concerned about its failure to seal Gaza against "infiltrators".

National committee

The leaders of Fatah and Hamas have formed a coordination committee to oversee Israel's withdrawal from Gaza.

The leaders of the two movements said they would agree on a time to hold the Palestinian legislative and municipal elections.

"We will discuss Palestinian legislative and municipal elections," Fatah member Ahmed Hallas told Aljazeera.

"Another committee has been entrusted with discussing rules linked to the electoral process", he said.

Rejuvenating peace

US led mediators hope the pullout will foster a road map process towards a Palestinian state at peace with Israel. Palestinians welcome so-called disengagement.

But they fear Sharon devised the move primarily as a smokescreen to cement Israel's hold on most of the West Bank where 230,000 settlers live, denying Palestinians a state of a viable size.

Some 2.4 million Palestinians live in the West Bank while 1.4 million are crammed into tiny coastal Gaza. The World Court describes the Israeli settlements as illegal.

Perez speaks

Speaking to Aljazeera from Gaza, Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Perez said he thought the withdrawal was the right beginning.

"I see happy faces in Gaza. I am delighted and I hope to see people in Gaza more delighted, well-to-do and breathing freedom.

"I am confident we will be neighbours and not enemies."

But he also said that hopes of prosperity in Gaza rested with Hamas. "If Hamas stopped firing and killing, life in Gaza would be better," he said.
Aljazeera + Agencies
by Steam
Monday Aug 15th, 2005 2:38 PM
Dear Lawful Gaza Residents,

When the Zionists pull out following their rape of your lands, here's a little ditty we like to sing in the US. It's known as the "Kiss Him Goodbye" song:

by Not a Useful Idiot
Monday Aug 15th, 2005 3:03 PM
What is that supposed to mean? Is that political thought or do '70s tunes just run through your head uncontrollably?
by Roland
Monday Aug 15th, 2005 3:06 PM
The expulsions have just begun in Gaza and the real trouble, if there is any, will come from the thousands of non-Gazan Israelis who have infiltrated into the area.
by gehrig
Monday Aug 15th, 2005 3:16 PM
When Israel pulled out of the Sinai in the early '80s after Camp David, they had to bring in the army and pull some settlers out the hard way, especially in a settlement called Yamit. But they did it all the same, and no one was seriously injured. The settlers were lots of noise but no fight. I'm not expecting any serious injuries this time either. Lotsa screaming, lotsa drama for the cameras, but in the end the settlers will leave.

by A long time ago
Monday Aug 15th, 2005 3:20 PM
Why didn't Egypt open up the Sinai for Palestinian settlement a long time ago? Its huge!
by gehrig
Monday Aug 15th, 2005 3:25 PM
Because most of the Arab states care about the Palestinians only symbolically, only when they can be exploited as a weapon against Israel. That's why the eight billion dollars promised by the EU to Gaza after the withdrawal dwarfs the corresponding pledge from the Arab states -- something like a hundred-to-one ratio.

by Hmmmm
Monday Aug 15th, 2005 3:42 PM
Israel's plan to "disengage" from the Gaza Strip does not meet even the minimum expectations articulated by the United States. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated that "when the Israelis withdraw from Gaza it cannot be sealed or [an] isolated area, with the Palestinian people closed in after that withdrawal. We are committed to connectivity between Gaza and the West Bank, and we are committed to openness and freedom of movement for the Palestinian people"
by Becky Johnson
Tuesday Aug 16th, 2005 1:44 PM
The Israeli govt. asked the PA whether they wanted to keep the homes of the 8,000 Jews who are being forcibly transferred out of Gaza.

Abbas directed the Israeli Govt. to destroy them.

For all the crying and hand-ringing on this site for the IDF bulldozing of homes in Gaza (Rafah in particular), why does no leftist voice speak up and say "Whaaa????"

I guess they are saving their breath to complain about the Israelis bulldozing the 88 homes in Jerusalem and causing "Palestinian families to become homeless".

Oh, and complaining that while they are forcing out their employers from Gaza because they are Jewish, they lament losing their jobs!!

by hey Becky?
Tuesday Aug 16th, 2005 1:47 PM
Does Israel ever do anything wrong?