A stormy meeting on Tuesday broke up without a decision on a proposal to postpone the withdrawal from 25 July to 15 August.

But the ministers said they had agreed to discuss the issue further after the army makes its recommendations in the coming days.

The standoff  is seen as a move that would give the government time to put its chaotic day-after plans in order, but also cast doubt on its resolve to carry out the pullout.

Critics said a postponement would scuttle the evacuation and serve the purposes of pullout opponents.

Opinion polls say the Israeli public overwhelmingly supports the plan, but it is fiercely opposed by the powerful settlers' movement and some prominent rightwing politicians.

Officially, the delay has been proposed out of respect for Orthodox Jews who observe a three-week mourning period for the destruction of the biblical Jewish Temples.

Many of the 9000 settlers who are scheduled to leave Gaza and four northern West Bank settlements observe Jewish rituals.