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Israel Finalizes Timetable for Gaza Pullout


Israeli settlers build a hut for visiting supporters on the beach of the Gush Katif bloc of settlements in the southern Gaza Strip
Israel has finalized the timetable for next month's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. But, Jewish settlers are gearing up for a mass protest.

Israel's forced evacuation of 21 Gaza settlements is scheduled to begin on August 17. Officials say that two days before then, Israeli troops will go from house to house and inform residents that their presence is illegal and they have to leave. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is playing hardball. Those who refuse to leave could lose tens of thousands of dollars in government compensation.

Israeli analyst Dan Schueftan told VOA that nothing can stop the pullout.

"It is a done deal because the mainstream Israelis have decided that this is what they want," he said.

Mr. Schueftan says now it's a question of credibility.

"Israel that is incapable of carrying out what its parliament has decided is no longer the state of Israel that we have known for 57 years, it's a different state, and it's a state in existential danger from within," he said.

But the settlers are not giving up the fight. They're planning to bring tens of thousands of people out for a three day march on Gaza later this month.

Settlement leader Effi Eitam says the aim is to get the nation "to rethink this horrible plan which will be able to destroy the Israeli democracy, the Israeli unity, and may cause political as well as security disaster for the state of Israel."

Some settlers are resigned to their fate and are moving out. The top official coordinating the pullout says he expects an exodus before the target date in mid-August.

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