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Gaza Pullout Becomes Forced Withdrawal

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The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

August 17, 2005

Thousands of Israelis who have lived in the Gaza Strip for years are being forced to leave by the Israeli Armed Forces. Many had gathered in synagogues, hoping to avoid removal.

As part of a peace agreement, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has enforced the decree that all Jewish settlers in Gaza leave their settlements there. The number of people affected is in the thousands. The number of Palestinian people who live in Gaza is 1.3 million.

Jewish settlements in Gaza number 21. The largest settlement, Neveh Dekalim, was providing the most resistance to the forced removal. On Monday, August 15, Israeli troops informed Jewish settlers all over the Gaza Strip that they had 48 hours to move peacefully. They had known about the planned withdrawal for several weeks. On Wednesday, defiant Israelis had barricaded themselves in their houses and in synagogues. Many incidents of protestant violence were reported, including one fatal shooting. The emotion most expressed was grief. Nearly 10,000 settlers left in all, shepherded from their homes by more than 14,000 Israeli troops.

Nearby, Palestinian armed forces maintained the peace, averting attacks from militants.

Jews around the world have sounded off against the move. Leaders in other countries privately agree that the pullout is a step in the right direction.

The Gaza Strip, a coastal piece of land on the Mediterranean Sea, was seized by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. Jewish settlers have moved in ever since, even as the Palestinian population has skyrocketed. The area has been a virtual war zone for most of the past few decades, filled by Israeli airstrikes and Palestinian suicide bombers.

The Israeli pullout from Gaza is part of an overall plan by Sharon to help with the peace process. He has faced fierce opposition in his own country for going ahead with the pullout.

One of the major disputed areas between the two peoples is still Jerusalem, claimed by both the Jewish and Muslim religions as either a religious capital or a very important city.

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