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Thread: Israel Begins Historic Gaza Withdrawal

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2005

    Israel Begins Historic Gaza Withdrawal

    Israel begins historic Gaza withdrawal
    Tel Aviv seals borders to civilians; move alters prospects for Mideast peace

    David Guttenfelder / AP
    Members of a Jewish settler family load a truck outside their home Sunday as they prepare to leave the southern Gaza settlement of Morag.

    Updated: 5:12 p.m. ET Aug. 14, 2005

    KISSUFIM CROSSING, Israel - Israel has sealed the Gaza Strip to Israeli civilians, signaling the start of the historic withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

    At midnight Sunday, the presence of Israeli civilians in Gaza became illegal. At the Kissufim crossing between Israel and Gaza, soldiers lowered a red road barrier to prevent traffic into Gaza. Signs on the barrier, in English and Hebrew, read: “Stop, entry into the Gaza Strip and presence there is forbidden by law.”

    It marks the first time Israel has given up settled land claimed by the Palestinians for their future state.

    Israeli and Palestinian troops launched the withdrawal after months of political wrangling and mass protests. The move by Israel will redraw long-debated borders and reshape the prospects for Mideast peace.

    Army chief calls for restraint
    Israel’s army chief appealed to troops to show restraint in removing thousands of Jewish settlers from their homes amid concerns that resistance could turn violent after thousands of anti-pullout activists slipped into the territory.

    The presence of a few thousand Israelis in Gaza, among 1.3 million Palestinians, has become a security burden, said Vice Premier Ehud Olmert. “The state of Israel does not want to be in the Gaza Strip and does not need to be in the Gaza Strip,” he told Israel TV’s Channel One.

    Thousands of Palestinian police, meanwhile, moved into positions near Jewish settlements with orders to keep away Palestinian crowds and to prevent attacks by militants during the pullout — something that Israel warned would bring harsh retaliation.

    Officers planted Palestinian flags and pitched tents while some chanted in praise of their late leader, Yasser Arafat. The Islamic militant Hamas group organized special midnight prayers of thanks at Gaza mosques.

    ‘Who would have ever thought?’
    Palestinian residents watched settlers packing up. “They are actually leaving. Who would have ever thought?” said Palestinian farmer Ziyad Satari, 40, standing on the roof of his three-story home in the Palestinian town of Khan Younis, which overlooks the Morag settlement. Many Palestinians have expressed doubt that the withdrawal will take place.

    Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas offered the Israelis reassurance.

    “We tell the Israeli people, ‘You have chosen the right path,”’ he told Israel TV’s Channel 10. “This is the right path. Don’t listen to the voices of the extremists who want a continuation of the occupation. I don’t want — and I will not accept — any clashes with the army or the settlers.”

    At daybreak Monday, Israeli troops were to fan out across Gaza’s 21 settlements, knock on doors and inform settlers their presence in Gaza was now illegal. The settlers have until midnight Tuesday to leave voluntarily, without suffering a loss in government compensation.

    “It is OK to cry with them,” the army chief, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, told commanders in urging troops to show understanding of the traumatic time for settlers. During the two-day grace period, “we are there to take it and not to dish it out,” he added.

    However, once forcible removal begins Wednesday morning, soldiers will act with determination, Halutz said.

    Four sites in West Bank targeted
    As part of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal plan, which was approved by parliament, Israel also will evacuate four small settlements in the northern West Bank housing some 500 people.

    Many hope the pullout from the territory Israel captured in 1967 will be the start of a true partition of historic Palestine between Arab and Jew.

    Others fear it is a ploy by Sharon to get rid of areas he doesn’t consider crucial to Israel while consolidating control of parts of the West Bank, where the vast majority of the 240,000 Jewish settlers live.

    The Palestinians want to create their own state out of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with east Jerusalem as their capital.

    Settlers vow to resist
    Hundreds of Gaza settlers vowed to ignore the deadline and stay in their homes. They were reinforced by hard-line activists from outside Gaza. Halutz estimated Sunday that about 5,000 outsiders had managed to sneak into Gaza in recent weeks despite army restrictions.

    Aug. 13: Anita Tucker, a grandmother and farmer from Brooklyn, has lived in the Gaza Strip settlement of Gush Katif for 29 years, and doesn't plan to leave quietly. Hear her position in her own words.
    Nightly News

    They planned to try to close off their communities Monday by massing at entrances and blocking roads to prevent soldiers from delivering eviction notices.

    But many families packed their belongings and left the Gaza Strip in recent days, and more were leaving Sunday.

    In the Peat Sadeh settlement, Yaakov Mazaltareen set fire to his two warehouses that contained irrigation equipment and two vehicles. He used his forklift to knock down what was left of the structures. Settlers stopped to watch. One crying woman rushed her children away.

    Most residents of Peat Sadeh already moved to Israel and were spending the weekend in a hotel.

    Dozens of anti-pullout protesters put up tents in the beachfront settlement outpost of Shirat Hayam. They turned a dilapidated house into a storeroom, piling up diapers, bottled water and canned foods. Women cooked on open fires, children bathed in makeshift bathrooms and people chatted in open tents.

    Unsettling prospect: Israeli vs. Israeli
    At a synagogue in Neve Dekalim, Gaza’s largest settlement, seven people sat in the sanctuary and quietly prayed. Itai Ben Simchon, 17, came to the synagogue to collect his father’s prayer shawl and said his family decided to leave on their own so as not to lose out on compensation money. “My mother and father are crying a lot,” he said.

    Pinchas Ariel, a farmer from the Ganei Tal settlement, said he also was leaving on his own because he couldn’t face clashing with Israeli soldiers. “I was in the army. I have two sons who were paratroopers, and I’m not going to fight my sons,” he said.

    Earlier Sunday, hundreds of settlers sang traditional prayers of redemption as part of a ceremony at the Gush Katif cemetery to commemorate the Tisha B’Av holy day marking the destruction of the Jewish Temples. The cemetery’s 49 graves are to be moved to Israel — one of the most emotionally charged issues in the pullout.

    Vice Premier Shimon Peres gave a pep talk to troops near the Gaza border.

    “The settlements must be evacuated. They cannot stay here,” he told reporters. “I understand that there are feelings. I have sympathy (for the settlers), but they cannot replace a national choice.”

    © 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  2. #2
    Se7en Guest
    Ah big news. Moving some chairs. *YAY*

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