Source Pravda.Ru

Israel hopes for the best in Gaza, prepares for the worst

Israeli authorities hope that most settlers would leave the Gaza Strip before the troops start withdrawal in August. Israel expects that two-thirds of the 9,000 settlers in the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements slated for evacuation will leave before troops come to clear the settlements, a senior Israeli official said in remarks published Friday.

"In my view when the Israeli Defense Force enters, it will be met by only about a third of the settlers," Yonatan Bassi, who heads the agency in charge of compensating uprooted settlers, told the Haaretz daily.

Earlier in the week Bassi told a parliamentary committee that only 396 of the 1,100 families have so far initiated proceedings to move. Settler leaders have vowed to stay and resist Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's "disengagement" plan set for mid-August, says the AP.

But Bassi said he believed many more would soon leave.

"In the two weeks before the disengagement there will be an exodus," Bassi told Haaretz. "The people who are now trickling out will become a flow. Two days before 'D-Day' the flow will become a tidal wave," he said.

Settler leader have promised nonviolent resistance only, but there are fears that small extremist groups will put up a fight. In recent weeks groups of extremist have commandeered buildings in Gaza and clashed with security forces and Palestinians.

Bassi said he believed that the majority of settlers who remain until the actual evacuation would not resist.

"There will be a knock on the door and they will leave. Very few will resist by force," he said.

However, he did identify three settlements where he said violent resistance was expected, specifically in the settlement of Sa-Nur in the northern West Bank. When residents of Sa-Nur fled the settlement during the more-than-four years of violence with the Palestinians, extremists moved in and took over the community.

"Something very bad is liable to develop there (in Sa-Nur)," Bassi said.

On July, 1, Israeli troops “rehearsed” the pullout by removing extremists from a hotel in a Gaza settlement “in minutes,” as media reported. Amid growing tensions on the withdrawal Israeli President Moshe Katsav warned Monday that right-wing nationalists could attempt to assassinate Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. At the same time the Israeli cabinet overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to delay the start of Ariel Sharon's Gaza withdrawal for three months.

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