Security alert for Gaza withdrawal
Palestinians brace for trouble as Jews begin to leave their homes
YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS
GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Palestinian Authority security forces were on high alert, stationed outside settlements across Gaza to prevent violence as the withdrawal of Israeli troops and thousands of Jewish settlers begins Sunday at midnight.
There is concern that Islamic radical groups such as Hamas or Islamic Jihad may incite violence that could disrupt the pullout, which involves the withdrawal of Israeli troops and about 9,000 Jewish settlers in Gaza and four small areas of the West Bank.
Israel has given the settlers until Wednesday to leave their homes before they will be forcibly removed.
Most of the settlers -- about 8,500 -- are to be evacuated from Gaza, where Israel has been closely coordinating with Palestinian security forces. A joint information and coordination center has been established at Erez Crossing along the northern Gaza-Israel border.
However, a senior Palestinian minister told CNN's Ben Wedeman that Palestinian security forces in Gaza have been forced to buy bullets on the black market for about $8 a piece because Israel's military is not providing any ammunition for the ill-equipped forces.
Some 55,000 Israeli soldiers and police are stationed across Gaza and Israel to implement the disengagement process. Their primary job will be preventing protesters from blocking the roads and infiltrating the settlements.
The atmosphere among many Palestinians is jubilant, seeing the pullout of Jewish settlers as a victory. At Gaza City's fishermen's harbor Friday, a crowd waved Palestinian flags in an official celebration of the withdrawal. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the crowd and was given a hero's welcome.
Hamas leaders have quietly told the Palestinian Authority they will not disrupt the withdrawal process, but not everyone trusts that pledge.
In a news conference Saturday, senior Hamas member Ismail Haniyye called the withdrawal a "retreat" and said it was "a result of resistance and our people's sacrifice."
"It is evidence that resistance is able to achieve our national goals," he said.
He also vowed that the armed struggle against the Jewish state would continue, despite the pullout.
"Hamas confirms its adherence to resistance as a strategic option until the occupation retreats from our lands and holy places," senior Hamas member Ismail Haniyye said. "Our movement reaffirms that it will protect its military apparatus and Al Qassam Brigades and its weapons and keep them for defending our land."
Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization, has been labeled by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization. The group's military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, has admitted responsibility for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians as well as attacks against the Israeli military.
There is an obviously grimmer mood among the settlers, and many of them have promised to resist.
"We're going to have to tell the government, 'No you cannot take us out of Gush Katif,' " settler Rachel Saperstein said. "We are going to stay here as long as possible, as long as our food supply holds out, our water supply and beyond that."
In Jerusalem, police have issued a heightened state of alert for the Jewish holy day of Tisha B'Av, fearing clashes between nationalist Jews and Muslims.
While police are normally on alert on the holy day, which begins Saturday evening and ends Sunday at sundown, there are fears that the disengagement could heighten tensions.
Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said police Saturday are limiting the age of the Palestinian men who can enter the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, in an effort to keep out younger Muslims who may be planning attacks.
Haram al-Sharif is Islam's third-holiest site and is built on a hill known to Jews as Temple Mount. The hill also is believed to contain the ruins of Judaism's holiest temple.
Every year, Muslim clerics call on devout Muslims to protect the sanctuary during Tisha B'Av, in which devout Jews pray for God to rebuild two destroyed Jerusalem temples.
|© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.