Settlers Prepare for Gaza Pullout

In the Jewish settlements of the Gaza Strip, some residents are packing up, preparing to leave for this week's planned withdrawal from Gaza. But others are still vowing to resist the evacuation.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

On the eve of the planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, some Israeli settlers are packing their belongings while others remain adamant that they will refuse to leave and that they will resist any efforts by the Israeli army to force them from their homes. NPR's Linda Gradstein is in the Gadid settlement in the southern part of Gaza and she joins us.

Linda, describe, first, Gadid for us. How many people live there? What have they been doing for a living?

LINDA GRADSTEIN reporting:

Gadid has about 75 families. About half of them work in agriculture, and the others work in all kinds of professions, you know, teachers, writers, whatever. And the ones who work in agriculture, some of them, over the past few weeks, have been packing up their greenhouses, trying to move them. As you drive through the settlement you see, you know, lots of empty greenhouses. However, the families themselves have not yet left, although at least some of them are packing, and some of them say they're going to just wait for the knock on the door by the army, and others say they're not leaving at any cost.

HANSEN: What have you observed there today? What's been happening?

GRADSTEIN: I just came from the cemetery at N'vei Dekalim, which is the largest settlement, about--a little more than a mile from here. The settlements are sort of strung out over a few miles, most of them along the beach. And at N'vei Dekalim there is the only cemetery for the settlements with about 48 graves, and there were about 2,000 people there. Today is Tisha B'av, the traditional Jewish day of mourning. It's the day when both the first and the second temples were destroyed, according to Jewish tradition, and it's a day of fasting and mourning, and it's a day when people go and visit the cemeteries. And the rabbi asked the--prayed, asking the dead people to intercede with God to stop the withdrawal. I spoke to one man whose daughter was killed in a shooting attack a few years ago. He had covered her grave with an Israeli flag, and then, after the ceremony, the young people stood there crying and singing biblical verses, asking for God's mercy, for God to interfere. This ceremony today really did feel like a farewell ceremony for these people, some of whom have lived here for 30 years.

HANSEN: For the residents of Gadid who will be leaving the settlement in the next few days, where are they gonna go?

GRADSTEIN: About half of them will go to this new town called Niza Neen(ph), which is being set up about 15 miles away, and the other half, who have refused to have any kind of contact with the Israeli government, it's not clear where they'll go. Some of them will probably originally go to hotel rooms. The government says that they have a solution for every family, that there are enough empty hotel rooms and apartments, and that eventually everybody will have a place to live. Some of the people, both here and in N'vei Dekalim, are talking about setting up a tent city because they say they want to stay together. They don't want to be spread out throughout Israel.

HANSEN: Take us briefly through the operation. What are the first steps and how is the army and the police going to deal with those who refuse to leave?

GRADSTEIN: Well, as of midnight tonight, it becomes illegal for any Israeli, including the residents, the settlers, who live here, to be inside the Jewish settlements of Gaza. However, the army has said that even though it's illegal for them to be here, over the next 48 hours, they will be allowed to leave. Starting tomorrow morning, the soldiers are going to go door to door handing out evacuation orders, telling people that they have 48 hours to leave, and if they want to leave, helping them do that, perhaps helping them to pack some of their things. And ten starting on Wednesday, the teams of police and soldiers are going to come in and forcibly evict people. The original timetable was that it would take a month for the 21 settlements in Gaza and four in the northern West Bank to be evacuated. Now the defense minister says he would like to have the entire operation finished by September 4th; however, he said it will depend on the amount of resistance.

HANSEN: NPR's Linda Gradstein in the Israeli settlement of Gadid in southern Gaza.

Linda, thank you very much.

GRADSTEIN: Thank you, Liane.

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