Gaza settlers agree to 'move as group'

Nearly all Gaza Strip settlers have agreed to move to Israel as a group following this summer’s withdrawal, a spokesperson said on Thursday, signalling the collapse of what was once wall-to-wall resistance to the government’s plan to evacuate the coastal area.

Most of the 1 600 families in Gaza signed a document stating that if the government goes ahead with the plan to dismantle Gaza settlements, they want to move as a group, said Eran Sternberg, a settler spokesperson. However, he insisted, settlers reserve the right to resist once soldiers try to remove them.

Until now, settler opposition to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to evacuate about 9 000 settlers from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank communities has been fierce, with opponents blocking roads, burning tyres and threatening to bring tens of thousands of people to Gaza to block the mid-August pull-out.

Most settlers have refused to cooperate with officials responsible for compensating and relocating them. However, a new document written by settler leaders states: “If we are uprooted, we will all go as a group and look out for each other.”

The government has offered to move most settlers as a group to Nitzanim, a desirable coastal area in Israel, just north of Gaza.

Only about 150 Gaza families have agreed to the offer, while others have rejected the terms of resettlement.
However, the new document indicates that more settler families could eventually move to Nitzanim.

“The main thing that is important to all of us is that if we are evacuated that we remain together,” said Yigal Meoded, a resident of the Neve Dekalim settlement who signed the document.

However, settler leaders insisted that opposition to the withdrawal has not weakened.

Resistance to evacuation will “shake the nation”, Sternberg said.—Sapa-AP

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