Possible Gaza evacuation approved

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon wants all 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip evacuated at the same time, instead of in three stages, officials said on Monday, reflecting a major shift in position.

On Monday, Sharon and Minister of Defence Shaul Mofaz presented the new plan to the Security Cabinet, a forum of senior ministers, setting off a heated debate.

According to Sharon’s “unilateral disengagement” plan, the Gaza settlements were to be removed in three stages by the end of September 2005. Four small West Bank settlements are also to be removed.

Settlers and their backers have mobilised to try to scuttle the Gaza pull-out, and there have been predictions of months of endless confrontations with the Gaza settlers in the months set aside for the gradual evacuation.

The Security Cabinet approved giving the military overall responsibility for removing the settlements, while assigning the job of taking the settlers out to the police, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.—Sapa-AP

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