Jewish settlers vow fight to the death

Jewish settlers have vowed to fight to the death after the Israeli cabinet voted to withdraw from Gaza, endorsing prime minster Sharon's controversial plan.

    Jewish settlers are physically refusing to be removed from Gaza

    Spokesman Pinhas Wallerstein who sits on the Yesha settler's council, a religious group, told reporters that colonists had to reconcile themselves to the fact that they were heading towards a serious rift in Israel.
    "This is a dire and complex situation, and I hope that we have the emotional ability to stand and face this reality. Even at the cost of people's lives and of my life, we won't let the evacuation be implemented."

    Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's cabinet voted by 17 to five at a marathon session on Sunday to begin removing the 8000 settlers of Gaza from 20 July, in what will be the first ever Israeli withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territory. 

    "(Talmudic law)establishes that a king who acts against the Torah is not to be heeded"

    Yesha settlers council statement

    The vote also sounds the death knell for four illegal settlements in the West Bank as part of a wider disengagement plan which Sharon hopes will reduce pressure on Israel to conduct a more comprehensive pullout from the West Bank.
    Meanwhile, the Palestinian parliament was due to make a symbolic break from the past by voting on the first cabinet of the post-Yasser Arafat era.
    Vital for future

    While Sharon insisted that the pullout was vital to the future of the state, the settler leadership said that the argument was far from over.
    The committee of settler rabbis also argued that the government's decision was invalid as it contravenes the Torah.
    "Halacha (Talmudic law) establishes that a king who acts against the Torah is not to be heeded," the organisation said in a statement.
    "Therefore, anyone who causes a rift and who is not sensitive to the Torah is responsible for the grave consequences." 
    In a speech after the vote, Sharon said the decision was the hardest of his entire career. 
    Sharon's tough decision

    "But there are moments which demand leadership and responsibility for decisions to be made even if they are unpopular," Sharon said.
    "As prime minister, I must look at the whole situation and I believe the disengagement plan will reinforce the Jewish character of Israel, improve its economic prospects and our international standing as well as relaunching the process to find a political solution" with the Palestinians, he added. 
    While Sharon completely snubbed the late Palestinian Authority and his arch enemy Arafat, the Israeli leader has been willing to negotiate with Arafat's successor Mahmud Abbas.
    As part of an agreement reached at the landmark summit between Abbas and Sharon in Egypt earlier this month, 500 Palestinian prisoners were released from Israeli custody on Monday morning. 
    Releasing prisoners

    Israeli PM Sharon signs order for 
    Gaza evacuation for 20 July 

    The prisoners could be seen cheering and flicking victory signs as they were herded onto buses at the Ketziot military detention centre in southern Israel, before being formally released to the Palestinian Authority at four checkpoints in the West Bank and another on the Gaza-Israel border.
    Palestinian MPs, meanwhile, were expected to approve a new ministerial line-up after fierce wrangling among members of the dominant Fatah faction.
    Fatah sources said the composition of the cabinet, which will have 22 ministers apart from current prime minister Ahmad Quraya, was finally approved after votes were taken on each individual minister at a meeting which lasted until the early hours.
    With Fatah members accounting for 62 deputies out of the 83-strong parliament, the line-up is now almost guaranteed to go through.
    The cabinet will include eight new ministers and some portfolios will also change hands, according to Fatah sources. 



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