Israeli cabinet to vote on evacuations

The Israeli cabinet is expected to give the final go-ahead for the evacuation of a first batch of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.

    Netzarim may be one of the settlements to be voted on

    There was no confirmation from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office which settlements would be voted on at the weekly cabinet session, but an official on Sunday said they would probably be the three most isolated: Netzarim, Morag and Kfar Darom.

    Although the pullout operation has been approved by the cabinet and parliament, ministers agreed in June 2004 that they would cast a final vote before beginning to evacuate any settlement.

    The evacuation of all 8000 settlers living in Gaza's 21 settlements as well as the pullout of all Israeli troops from the territory is to start on 17 August, Israel's first withdrawal from occupied Palestinian land.
     
    Differences within the cabinet over the pullout have reshaped Israel's political landscape, but Sharon is widely expected to obtain a majority on all the votes.

    "I am opposed in principle to the unilateral and unconditional evacuation of the settlements. I will vote against, but I'm in a minority," minister without portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi told public radio on Sunday.

    The order in which the settlements will go through the cabinet will not necessarily be the pullout order, which is being kept secret until the last moment for security reasons. 

    Israelis shot, wounded

    Also on Sunday, two Israelis, including a 10-year-old boy, were wounded in a drive-by shooting attack north of the West Bank city of Ram Allah, Israeli medical sources said.

    They were driving on a road used only by Jewish settlers, the Magen David Adom emergency services said, adding that one of the wounded was in serious condition.

    The child, from Jerusalem, suffered serious head injuries and was flown by military helicopter to hospital in the city, where his condition was said to be stable, the sources said.

    Willing participants
        
    Meanwhile, Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz has said about two-thirds of the Jewish settlers scheduled for evacuation from the Gaza Strip and isolated northern West Bank will obey orders to leave their homes.

    Shaul Mofaz says most settlers
    will leave willingly

    He said that 60% to 70% of the settlers who are to be evacuated under Sharon's so-called disengagement plan will leave willingly.
     
    Few settlers have relocated ahead of the evacuation deadline, but Mofaz predicted a majority would rush to leave from 15 to 17 August before being forcibly removed.

    Israeli public radio reported that 200 out of the 1550 families due to evacuate the Gaza Strip and the four West Bank settlements have agreed on new housing arrangements with the government.

    But it said around 1000 families had started procedures to that end with the administration supervising the evacuation of the settlers.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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