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Defiant Settlements Vow to Resist Gaza Evacuation

Israel's evacuation of settlements in the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank is in its second day. It is now less than 12 hours before soldiers and police begin to forcibly remove anyone who has not left voluntarily. VOA's Sonja Pace is in the southern Gaza settlement of Netzar Hazani and reports the mood there is part resignation and part quiet defiance.

By seven o'clock in the morning about two dozen men, most of them young, have come to pray outside the local synagogue.

The prayers today seem especially fervent as people here hope that somehow their strong faith will help save the settlement from being dismantled.

Netzar Hazani is the oldest settlement here and home to 80 families. Anita Tucker is one of them. The native New Yorker came here in 1976 with her husband and three small children.

She admits there is a possibility she might be forced to leave but she remains hopeful it will not happen.

"As of Friday, I still marketed 150 boxes of celery each of them with 20 heads," she said. "I planted on Friday. I planted 10,000 seedlings of celery. Some people may think I'm crazy but two months ago when I planted the celery people thought I was crazy as well but I marketed on Friday. So, I'm one of the only people making some money now and none of us knows where we're going to be making a living from in another two and a half months."

This is a religious and agricultural settlement and Mrs. Tucker is proud of the vegetables she's grown in what she says were only barren sand dunes when she first arrived.

One family here has already left and 16 others are said to be planning to leave before the deadline arrives. Not so Anita Tucker and dozens of other families.

"We're planning to do everything possible that's non-violent to prevent this plan from happening," she said.

The families here readily acknowledge they're getting some outside help. They say over 2,000 "visitors", mostly teenagers, have come to join them in their resistance to evacuation.

Seventeen-year-old Moshe Geita came here two months ago from the town of Ramle near Tel Aviv.

"First of all, the Torah says this is our country, Israel, and second, I don't think its right to take someone and tell them [to] get out [of] your house," he said. "People live here 20 years. They come here and it was only desert. It's not right."

Anita Tucker thinks Ariel Sharon's plan to dismantle the 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza and four small ones in the West Bank is immoral and she does not believe his argument that the evacuation is necessary, nor does she believe that the withdrawal will bring greater security or peace.