Gaza Settlers Get Military Ultimatum
IDF: Forced evacuation to begin August 17 in Gaza
By Amos Harel and Yair Ettinger, Ha'aretz Correspondents
"Israel Defense Forces officers distributed letters Monday afternoon to Gaza settlers telling them their presence in the Strip will be considered illegal as of August 15.
"Starting from midnight August 17, the IDF will evacuate any settlers still in Gaza.The letters, which were signed by GOC Central Command Dan Harel and Brigadier General Guy Tzur, also offer IDF assistance in the evacuation for those who decide to leave voluntarily by midnight of August 16.The settlers will receive evacuation orders the morning of August 15 telling them to leave the area by midnight of the next day.
"From the 12th of [the Hebrew month of] Av (17.8), starting at 00:01, the forced phase of the evacuation will begin and security forces will evacuate the residents who choose to remain and with whom security forces will be compelled to clash in order to carry out the law," the letter said.
"'I am sure their commitment to the rule of law and responsibility for the completeness of the nation will direct your protests,' Harel wrote in the letter. 'I pray for the wellbeing of all of us - the citizens of Israel, the residents of the Gaza Strip, the IDF and the Israel Police.'
"Eran Sternberg, the spokesman for the Gaza settlement bloc of Gush Katif, said the letters contained 'threats of financial terrorism toward those residents who do the obvious and stay in their homes.' Senior rabbis in Gaza are calling on those slated to be evacuated to remain in their homes 'until the end,' beyond the deadline set by the army.
"The rabbis' comments come despite the risk taken by families remaining in Gaza after August 15, since the government has said it is not obligated to recover any property they leave behind. Families who remain in Gaza after the pullout date also relinquish one-third of the compensation money being offered to evacuees.
"Gush Katif residents believe most settlers will adhere to the rabbis' call.'We stand before critical and decisive moments,' settler rabbi Yigal Kamintzky wrote. 'Let us not bow our heads. The nation of Israel needs us here today as strong and fierce as ever, because we are the heart and the foundation of the struggle.'
Kamintzky added that Gaza settlers could pack their belongings if they feared having their property taken from them.'Whoever feels that this insane reality, in which one's property is likely to be robbed from him and packing belongings will provide peace of mind for the continuation of the struggle, then it is legitimate and acceptable to do so,' wrote the rabbi. 'However, it must be done as late as possible and with as much humility as possible.'
Meanwhile, pullout opponents on Monday briefly blocked the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Highway to protest the disengagement. They also demonstrated at the entrance to Jerusalem and near the Geha and Givat Shmuel junctions in the Tel Aviv area. "