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Where does this leave the Palestinians?

They are in a difficult position. They welcome any removal of Israeli settlements which cause great disruption in the lives. But they are also furious that Israel has left them out of consultations on disengagement. They want a return to the internationally-backed peace plan know as the roadmap. However, Israel refuses to deal with the current Palestinian leadership. Many Palestinians fear that disengagement from Gaza is simply a smokescreen to allow Israel to hold onto as much territory as it can in the West Bank while sacrificing the small and pretty insignificant Gaza Strip. These fears appeared to be well grounded when Mr Sharon's top advisor described the plan as "formaldehyde... so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians". Although he later claimed to have been quoted out of context, Dov Weisglass told Haaretz newspaper: "The significance of the plan is the freezing of the peace process... all with a [US] presidential blessing."

What is the current situation in the Gaza Strip?

The Gaza Strip has been occupied by Israel since it captured the territory from Egyptian control in the 1967 war. Under the Oslo Accords signed in 1993, Israel handed over control of about 80% of the territory to the Palestinian Authority to administer. Israel was to retained control over 20% of the territory as well as the border crossings, whose status was to be determined by final status negotiations. Since the Intifadah began in autumn 2000, the Israeli army has made repeated incursions into Gaza, killing hundreds of people and destroying swathes of houses and infrastructure. Palestinian militants have repeatedly attacked the settlements and military outposts and launched numerous rocket attacks into a nearby Israeli town killing a number of Israelis. The 1.3m Palestinian population of Gaza has meanwhile been hit by crippling economic, social and developmental crises, with an estimated one-third of workers unemployed, and almost two-thirds living below the poverty line, according to the International Labor Organization.


Raji Sourani: Sharon is just deceiving the world. He's not putting an end to the occupation. He's just deploying his troops in a different way

Gaza- Although Palestinians welcome the Israeli withdrawal, a considerable number of political leaders and Arab activists in the west remain skeptical. And Mr. Raji Sourani, an important Palestinian figure who is heading the Palestinian Center for Human Rights is waging a campaign of distrust for all the efforts of the Israeli Prime Minister. However, the majority of the Palestinian population in Gaza are rejoicing the Israeli withdrawal. Mosques in Gaza and Syria are welcoming the Israeli move. Aran cars and trucks horns blare loud in the Palestinian streets. Yet, incomprehensibly, many Palestinians in Market Street, say that they do not believe the Israelis will really leave, despite the fact that the Knesset votes on Monday on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan. It is typical Arab and typical Palestinian.

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