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Israeli Settlers Resist Gaza Pullout, Palestinians Call for Withdrawal from West Bank
by Democracy Now (reposted)
Tuesday Aug 16th, 2005 7:12 AM
Thousands of settlers are refusing to leave their homes in Gaza settlements today as Israeli soldiers and police order them to move out. The pullout is seen by some as a strategy by the Israeli state to consolidate its hold over the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Others see it as a necessary step in the roadmap to peace in Israel-Palestine. We speak with a resident of Gush Katif who is resisting the pullout, the director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a journalist who spent time with soldiers and settlers and the founder of Electronic Intifada. [includes rush transcript] The Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip began officially today. Gaza is currently home to 8,500 Israeli settlers and 1.4 million Palestinians.
At midnight, borders into the settlements were sealed and it became illegal for Israeli civilians to remain in the Gaza Strip. Thousands of soldiers are deploying today to inform residents of the 21 Gaza settlements and four of 120 West Bank settlements that they have two days to move out voluntarily. After civilian relocation is complete, the Israeli military will gradually pull out. The Palestinian Authority is scheduled to govern Gaza by the end of the year, marking the first time in decades that Palestinians will control the territory.

The pullout is seen by some as a strategy by the Israeli state to consolidate its hold over the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Others see it as a necessary step in the roadmap to peace in Israel-Palestine. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sought to convey a sense of unity and cooperation in his remarks on the withdrawal yesterday.

* Mahmoud Abbas:
"We want for the settlers and the army to leave in peace and security, without any undue incidents. That is what we are trying to achieve now. If you go out into the streets now, you will discover that there is complete agreement among all of the Palestinian citizens and all of the factions. Everyone is calling for a smooth and quiet withdrawal."

The Israeli Defense Forces are prepared to reoccupy all of Gaza if they meet any resistance from Palestinian groups.

* Abu Yousef, spokesperson for the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades:
"The Zionist enemy should understand that the resistance is not over and our attacks will not have any barriers. Threatening our sites only reassures us to keep our weapons and operations."

A majority of Israelis support the withdrawal, but thousands of settlers are so far refusing to leave. The Israeli government is offering all settlers compensation and new housing outside of Gaza.

The settlements were originally established after the 1967 "Six-Day War" when Israel claimed land outside its internationally recognized borders.

* Idith Zertal, Israeli historian:
"A settlement was a main objective in Zionist ideology and practices and after the 1967 war, the Six-Days war, the settlements were, I could say, almost kidnapped by the Zionist religious group or movement in Israel in creating the settlements beyond the Green Line, beyond the international border"

Settlers are planning to use a variety of methods to resist relocation. This is a resident of one of the fifteen southern Gush Katif settlements.

* Gush Katif Settlement Resident:
"We believe that this program that (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon, it is not going to happen. No matter what happen we will not leave this place because it's our country, you can't give it to our enemies so we stay here and fight. We will not fight with our soldiers because they are our brothers but we are not going to let them take us out of here."

Several dozen Israeli soldiers have so far refused to implement the relocation of settlers.

* David Matar, a Manhattan-born pediatrician who moved to the Gaza Strip with his wife and six children recently to resist the Israeli pullout.
* Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinan Center for Human Rights.
* Michael Bronner, journalist who recently spent ten days in Gaza talking to settlers and Israeli soldiers. His report will be published on CBS News online.
* Ali Abunimah, founder of Electronic Intifada.