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Israel to Implement Gaza Pullout Despite Growing Opposition

Israel is promising to implement its pullout from Gaza on schedule this summer, despite a lack of cooperation from Jewish settlers. But, Israeli public support for the withdrawal is diminishing.

With the target date for starting the Gaza pullout just over two months away, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon convened Cabinet ministers to discuss progress. And for Mr. Sharon, the news wasn't good. The top official planning the withdrawal said only 87 of 1,800 Gaza settler families have applied for compensation.

Gaza resident Rachel Sapperstein says the aim is to pressure the government to call off the pullout.

"The people here want to stay home, and we are going to resist up until the end," she said.

Mr. Sharon accused the settlers and their supporters of incitement, and warned that demonstrations and vandalism will not stop the evacuation of 21 Gaza settlements.

"The evacuation will take place exactly on schedule," he said, referring to the target date of mid-August.

But a new poll shows that Israeli public support for the pullout is plunging. The Israel Radio poll showed 50 percent support for the plan, down from a high of 64 percent last year. The drop is attributed to warnings by senior military officials that the Gaza pullout will be followed a new wave of Palestinian terror.

As one man on the street, Ilan Zovuler, told VOA.

"What's going to happen after we pull out from Gaza? They're not going to be shooting rockets into Ashkelon? Of course they're going to," he said.

Ashkelon is the closest Israeli city to Gaza.

But British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who met with Palestinian leaders in the West Bank, said the Gaza pullout is good for peace.

"It's in everybody's interest for this withdrawal to take place and be successful," he said.

Mr. Straw said Prime Minister Sharon would have a lot more room to maneuver if there's an end to Palestinian terror.