Gaza Strip pullout under way

Monday, August 15, 2005

Israeli troops have begun implementing the historic pullout plan from the Gaza Strip by delivering eviction notices to the remaining settlers. They now have 48 hours, beginning this morning at 00:00 (UTC+3) to withdraw from their settlements before the army removes them by force.

The Gaza Strip

Many settlers have vowed to resist their evacuation and promised fierce but nonviolent resistance. They have blocked the gate of Neve Dekalim, one of the largest settlements in the Strip, and called upon the soldiers to refuse their orders. "You're a partner to a crime," they screamed to army members.

Maj. Gen. Dan Harel, Israel's commander over the Gaza Strip, said the army will not waver in managing the pullout: "We will reach every settler, just as we have planned."

The IDF has sent about 55,000 troops to evacuate some 8,500 settlers.

The Israeli government believes that the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is vital for the security of the country, although the decision to withdraw was very controversial, causing splits in Sharon's governing Likud party. Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz called it a "painful and difficult, but historic day".

In a televised prime time address, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon outlined his reasons for the withdrawal: "This act is essential for Israel. Believe me, the pain I feel with this act is the full realisation that we must do it. [...] We cannot hold onto Gaza forever, more than a milion Palestinians live there [...] crowded in refugee camps, poverty and hotbeds of hatred with no hope on the horizon." Sharon also said that if any terrorist attacks by Palestinians were to occur after the pull-out his government would deliever the "harshest response ever". But he also stated that if the Palestians would stretch out their hand in peace "we will respond with an olive branch."

The Palestinian Authority fully agrees with the Israeli actions. "We tell the Israeli people, `You have chosen 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," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Channel 10 TV. Abbas also insisted that Israel must hand over control over the West Bank and East Jerusalem as well in the not so far future.

The PA itself has deployed some 7,500 security to prevent attacks by Palestinian extremists.

The Gaza Strip has been partially occupied by Jewish settlers for 38 years. The average per capita Palestinian annual income there in 2001 was $625 U.S. dollars and there are extreme dietary deficiencies among the Palestinian people. Israel has given no assurances that there will be a lessening of trade restrictions on goods coming out of the Gaza strip.


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