"This is not like the situation of Jewish settlers who had to be dragged out of their homes," Israeli army spokesman Shlomo Dror said on Sunday.

"They are going because they want to leave. The situation is dangerous."

Israel finished uprooting the 8000 Gaza settlers from the occupied territory last Monday and says it will withdraw all of its troops by the middle of next month.

Beduin tribe

The residents of the village of Dahaniya, which lies near the Palestinian refugee camp of Rafah where the resistance group Hamas is popular, have voiced fears that the departure of their Israeli protectors could put their lives in danger.

The village of about 350 people sits in the southeastern tip of the Gaza Strip, where the Palestinian, Israeli and Egyptian borders meet.

Most of the families are beduins who originally lived in Egypt's Sinai peninsula and say they never collaborated against the Palestinians.

After Israel captured the Sinai in the 1967 war, their land was used to build the Jewish settlement of Yamit and the beduins were given land in Dahaniya in exchange.

When the peninsula was returned in 1982 as a result of the Israeli-Egyptian peace deal, the Dahaniya families refused to return to their homes after being labelled as traitors in their home country for accepting the landswap in the first place.

Israeli citizens

Of the 40 families to be transferred, 20 already have Israeli nationality or are married to Israelis while another 20 families are Palestinian and will gain Israeli citizenship upon moving to Israel.

"They are going because they want to leave. The situation is dangerous."

Shlomo Dror,
Israeli army spokesman

However, a small minority have decided to remain in Gaza.

Dror said some of the residents would be rehoused in towns in southern Israel in an operation which is expected to finish on Monday.

"Houses will be destroyed and the Palestinian Authority will be able to use the land for their own needs," Dror said.

Both Palestinian and Israeli residents will receive compensation packages depending on the number of years they have lived in Dahaniya.

"We made a special effort to ask for more money for this beduin tribe because according to the law there is no compensation for those who don't own land or property," Dror said.

Since the start of the second intifada in September 2000, dozens of Palestinians suspected of collaborating with the Israeli security services have been summarily executed.