Israeli Families Sign Agreement on Leaving Gaza Strip (CNS-CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE) By Julie Stahl JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 02/01/05)
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Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Dozens of Israeli families signed a
memorandum of understanding on moving out of their communities in
the northern Gaza Strip, it was announced on Tuesday.
In other developments, Palestinians fired mortar shells at southern
Gaza Strip settlements despite recent moves toward greater Israeli-
Palestinian security cooperation.
Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz called on Palestinian Authority
security forces to stop militants from firing mortars at Israeli
communities in the Gaza Strip and to actively fight terrorism.
Four mortar shells were fired at Israeli communities in the southern
Gaza Strip on Tuesday causing some damage but no injuries, the army
said. Nine other mortars were fired at the area from late Monday
afternoon and overnight.
The first mortars were fired after a 10-year-old Palestinian girl,
Nurhan Deeb was shot in the head while waiting to enter school in
Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
Palestinians accused Israeli soldiers of firing the deadly shot from
an army outpost. But Israel denied it, saying that an initial
investigation showed the warning shots had been fired too far from
the school to have injured or killed the girl.
Instead, Israel suggested that shots had been fired by Palestinians
in celebration of their return home from the Hajj pilgrimage to
Mecca. (Firing weapons in the air is common at Arab celebrations.)
Eight terrorist organizations including Hamas, Al Aksa Martyrs
Brigades and Islamic Jihad issued a joint statement warning that
they would resume terror attacks if Israel continued what they
considered its aggression.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad said earlier this week that the announcement
of a temporary truce would depend on what measures Israel was
willing to take.
Palestinian groups are demanding that Israel withdraw from all
Palestinian cities, release all Palestinian prisoners and end its
pursuit of "wanted" Palestinians.
Head of Israeli Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aharon Ze´evi told
the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that PA
Chairman Mahmoud Abbas had allowed terrorist groups to keep their
weapons while they were discussing a ceasefire.
Radical groups were only interesting in creating calm rather than an
actual ceasefire or hudna (temporary truce), he added.
"The axis of evil - which includes the Hizballah, Hamas and al Qaeda
organizations supported by Iran - adamantly opposes calm, and Hamas
and Hizballah are working together to destroy the ceasefire," Ze´evi
was quoted as saying.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan welcomed the idea of a
ceasefire on Monday but said it would not be enough. "Ultimately we
need to dismantle those terrorist organizations," he said.
Despite the trouble, Mofaz met Monday evening with Palestinian
Authority security chief Mohammed Dahlan to discuss the Israeli
transfer of West Bank cities to Palestinian security control.
Mofaz told Dahlan that the transfer of West Bank cities would be
influenced by the situation in Gaza and whether the mortar fire
The Rafah border crossing where Palestinians cross from the Gaza
Strip into Egypt was reopened on Tuesday as a result of the meeting.
Two other crossings from the Gaza Strip into Israel will be opened
only after the PA comes up with plans to better secure the areas,
the Defense Ministry said.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon´s bureau chief Dov Weisglass
reportedly will meet with the PA´s top negotiator Saeb Erekat on
Thursday ahead of a visit to the region by Secretary of State
Weisglass held talks with Rice in Washington on Monday.
Rice said that Washington would be working with the two parties over
the next several months "to push forward toward the date when we
have a two-state solution."
"I don´t think any of us doubt that without a Palestinian state that
is viable, that can represent the aspirations of the Palestinian
people, that there really isn´t going to be a peace for either the
Palestinian people or for the Israelis," she said.
The Disengagement Authority, which is dealing with compensation
issues for the 8,000 Israelis due to be evacuated from the Gaza
Strip and northern West Bank as part of Sharon´s unilateral
disengagement plan, announced on Tuesday that 38 families from two
northern Gaza Strip settlements -- Elei Sinai and Nisanit -- had
signed a memorandum of understanding regarding their removal from
the Gaza Strip.
Israel wants things to quiet down before it pulls its forces out of
Gaza but radical groups want to give the appearance that Israel is
fleeing under fire.
The settlers agreed to move to a community outside the southern
Israeli city of Ashkelon where each family will be given 0.5 dunams
(about 1/8 of an acre) of land in exchange for their current
property in Gaza, the statement said.
Implementation of the agreement will depend on the passage of a law
in the Knesset regarding compensation packages, it said.
According to the statement, the Disengagement Authority is involved
in "advanced negotiations with additional groups of settlers"
regarding their move to communities in the Ashkelon area.
The statement comes two days after tens of thousands of anti-
disengagement demonstrators gathered in Jerusalem, calling on the
prime minister to agree to hold a referendum on his plan. They
insist that a majority of Israelis are opposed to the disengagement
plan for a variety of reasons.
The following day the pro-disengagement camp announced it would hold
a counter-demonstration in Tel Aviv, saying that the majority has
already decided that it wants Israel to leave the Gaza Strip.
(copyright 1998-2005 Cybercast News Service. 02/01/05)
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