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Israel Begins Pullout from Gaza


Israel has begun moving military equipment out of the Gaza Strip in preparation for its summer pullout. And the Palestinians are urging Israel to coordinate the withdrawal with them.

Israeli troops removed about 30 shipping containers from an army base in the Gaza Strip, the first visible step toward implementation of the planned pullout this summer.

The containers, packed with furniture, computers, weapons, and uniforms, were loaded on to trucks, which drove out of the base and headed to Israel.

For the 8000 Gaza settlers slated for evacuation this summer, it is a bad sign.

"This is only the beginning of the expulsion of the Jewish people from Jewish land," said Rachel Sapperstein, who lives in Gaza's Gush Katif settlement bloc.

West Bank settlement activist Eve Harrow fears for the worst.

"We must block the establishment of a terror state in the Gaza Strip, because the effects of that can be an existential threat on the state of Israel, and that is the danger here," she said.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is not optimistic either. He told Cabinet ministers that he expects Palestinians to loot Jewish settlements immediately after Israeli forces leave Gaza.

But Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas says he is prepared to keep order when the Israelis withdraw.

Israel should coordinate the pullout with the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Abbas told reporters. But Israel is losing confidence in the Palestinian leader.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom says Mr. Abbas (who is also known as Abu Mazen) has not kept his commitment to fight terror under the internationally-backed "Roadmap" peace plan.

"The time has come for Abu Mazen and the Palestinian leadership to take the strategic decision to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorist organizations," said Mr. Shalom.

Mr. Sharon is determined to implement the pullout, with or without the Palestinian Authority. And with the settlers promising fierce resistance, it's shaping up to be a long, hot summer.

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