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Withdrawal from Gaza (Part A)
In two months time Israel is to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. The disengagement plan has been bitterly opposed by the thousands of Israelis who live in the heavily defended settlements in Gaza which frequently come under attack from Palestinian militants. Those settlers who refuse to leave face being forcibly removed by the military. Alan Johnston has been gauging the mood in southern Gaza:
In the ruins of the Palm Beach Hotel you get a powerful sense that an era is drawing to a close that Israel's attempt to settle its people on the Gaza Strip is in its last days.
The waves still crash on the fine sand in front of the beach hotel. But since the Palestinians launched their uprising against Israel -- the intifada -- nearly five years ago, Gaza has become a violent, dangerous place. People don't come on holiday anymore. The Palm Beach resort complex was abandoned by its staff and management. The reception area and the dining room have been stripped of their fixtures and fittings. The wind off the sea blows in across floors strewn with broken glass.
A similar fate awaits everything that Israel has built here -- if it withdraws from Gaza in August, as planned.
Some young settlers have been squatting in the hotel as it's decayed around them. For Elazaar Elchiam, life is good. He lives for nothing in one of the resort's beachfront apartments. The Mediterranean waves are just metres away, and Elazaar has a passion for surfing.
He grew up in one of the nearby settlements -- where red-roofed bungalows surrounded by lawns bake in the summer sun. Elazaar dreads the thought that this may well be his last summer on Gaza's beach.
The settlers say Israel is making a mistake. That it's handing victory to the Palestinian militants who have been attacking Gush Katif for years. Israel has a horror of the possibility that the settler's homes will be treated as the spoils of victory by groups like the Hamas organisation. To prevent that, it's possible that the army will demolish everything in the days before the Israelis leave.
Debbie Rosen, a mother who's raised six children in Gush Katif, said she hates the thought of her home being destroyed. But at the same time she couldn't bear the idea of what she called "terrorists who killed her friends" taking over the house as they celebrate Israel's retreat.