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Israel Accelerates Plans for Gaza Pullout

Israel is accelerating plans for its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, despite fierce opposition from Jewish settlers.

Armed Jewish settlers dance during a gathering
The Israeli Cabinet has approved construction of 150 temporary homes for Jewish settlers slated for evacuation from the Gaza Strip this summer. The move underscores a problem facing many of the 8,000 Jews in Gaza - they have no place to go. Gaza settler Rachel Sapperstein says Israelis are becoming refugees in the Jewish homeland.

"The people here are against it, to dump us in any kind of a prison camp, in a refugee camp," she said.

The Cabinet decision was announced as Israeli security forces held their first exercise on evacuating the Gaza settlers. Military sources say they prepared for a situation in which thousands of settlers clash with soldiers and police. Ms. Sapperstein told Israel Radio that the settlers will resist until the bitter end.

"We want to stay home," she said. "We have become a symbol for all of Israel, of resistance against the ethnic cleansing of Jews from this area."

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas says he wants to coordinate the Gaza pullout with Israel. But the Israelis are reluctant, saying that Mr. Abbas has failed to crack down on militant groups, as demanded by the internationally-backed "Roadmap" peace plan. The challenges facing Mr. Abbas were evident in the West Bank town of Jenin, where about 40 Palestinian gunmen held an angry protest.

Pressing a demand for government jobs, the militants fired in the air, threatened to kill Palestinian parliamentarians and shut down a government building. Mr. Abbas has vowed to restore law and order, but he seems powerless against the armed gangs that rule the streets.