July 1, 2005

Israeli army reopens Gaza settlements to Israelis

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The Israeli army reopened the GazaStrip's Jewish settlements area on Friday, a day after itdeclared it a closed military zone, the army said.

A spokeswoman said the closure had been lifted allowingIsraelis free access to the area. The closure was imposed onThursday following clashes with ultra-radical Jews resistingthe planned pullout from the territory, the army said.

Security sources said the decision to prevent Israelis,other than residents, from entering all 21 settlements onThursday was intended to prevent an additional influx ofultranationalists who have attacked Palestinians and securityforces in the area in the past few days.

"The lifting of this order is possible following thecompletion of the mission of taking over and the evacuation ofthe hotel in Neve Dekalim, as well as the radical groups insideit," the army said in a statement.

In tandem with the lifting of entry restrictions, theIsraeli army's senior commander in the area ordered a limit onthe number of goods and belongings being brought into the areato enable an extended stay by settlers.

"The ... order will limit the ability of persons enteringthe Gaza Strip, both residents and non-residents, to transfervarious types of equipment ... aimed at opposing the evacuationthat is to be carried out as part of the Disengagement Plan,"the statement said.

Israel's plan to evacuate all 21 Gaza settlements and fourof 120 in the West Bank is set to begin in August, a planU.S.-led mediators hope will revive Israeli-Palestinian peacetalks. But the plan has been confronted with protests byradical nationalists.