Today Gaza tommorrow Jerusalem - Paid Assassins hold "public awareness" rally to celebrate Jewish deportations
August 4, 2005
Gaza Palestinians celebrate coming Israeli pullout
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - Around 10,000 Palestinians danced and sang, some firing rifles in the air, in early celebrations on Thursday of Israel's coming withdrawal from occupied Gaza and part of the West Bank.
The festivities in Gaza City's main central square were sponsored by a special committee created by the Palestinian Authority government to raise public awareness of the pullout and encourage Palestinians to mark it peacefully.
Egyptian security officers have been brought in to help train a new 5,000-man Palestinian force to safeguard vacated Jewish settlements and prevent feared looting and seizures of property by armed factions powerful in Gaza.
The street celebrations were the first in a popular campaign launched by the Authority to foster a peaceful transition in settlement areas and army bases to be vacated by Israel starting on August 17 in a "disengagement" operation due to last a month.
Green-red-and-black Palestinian flags fluttered as women and youth danced in circles and belted out nationalist songs.
Some revellers held assault rifles, posters of late iconic guerrilla leader and president Yasser Arafat, and banners saying, "Settlements were historically owned by our people and let us preserve them" and "Let's fly the flags over our land".
Many chanted, "Today Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem".
Palestinians want Gaza and the West Bank for a future state with a capital in Arab East Jerusalem -- all areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war. But Israel vows never to yield its largest West Bank settlements or redivide Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie stuck to longstanding Palestinian goals, saying the impending pullout would not be enough. "We reject a state with temporary borders ... Our march will stop only in Jerusalem," he told a cheerful crowd.
"We will be happy to see them getting out from Gaza and northern West Bank and will prepare ourselves for their withdrawal from Jerusalem," Qurie added.
NO JOY FOR ULTRA-RIGHTIST ISRAELIS
While Palestinians rejoiced over the coming pullout, ultra-nationalist Israelis pondered dwindling options after failing to force their way past police roadblocks into the main Gaza settlement to amass resistance against evacuation.
A narrow majority of Israelis favour the plan to "disengage" from conflict with Palestinians, regarding Gaza and the remote north of the West Bank as devoid of strategic or economic value.
Palestinian officials have said ordinary people would be free to celebrate inside vacated Israeli settlements but not to seize property whatever pent-up anger and bitterness there may be after 38 years of occupation.
Some 95 percent of settlement areas has been classified as "state land" by the Palestinian Authority but it has assured that the rest will revert to previous Palestinian owners.
Entry will only be allowed after security forces and bomb squads sweep the area for possible leftover unexploded ordnance and other health hazards, Palestinian police officials said.
Making a plea to avoid violent chaos in abandoned settlements, and alluding to Palestinian hopes of advancing towards statehood via the pullout, Qurie told the crowd: "Be united and fight against those who will try to harm our image."
He added: "Send a message out to the whole world that we are happy for the withdrawal of the occupation ..."
However, many Palestinians still fear Israel aims to swap Gaza for a permanent hold on larger West Bank settlements, undermining their dream of a state of viable size on land lost in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.