8.19.2005

U.S. Welcomes Efforts To Ensure Peaceful Gaza Withdrawal

State Department condemns attack by Israeli settler on Palestinians

By David Shelby
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The United States welcomes the efforts of both Israelis and Palestinians to ensure a peaceful and orderly withdrawal of Israeli settlers from Gaza.

“I think everybody who is watching this process unfold understands, when they see the pictures and the television images, that this is a very difficult moment for these people who are leaving their homes, in some cases the only homes that they have known,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters at an August 17 briefing.

“It's a very difficult time for the Israeli people. But Prime Minister Sharon has made a bold and courageous decision to follow through with the withdrawal from Gaza, and we certainly have supported him in that decision,” McCormack added.

McCormack praised the Palestinians for their close coordination with the Israeli government on the withdrawal and for deploying security forces to ensure that the process is not hampered by extremist violence.

“I think that the Palestinian people also understand that this is an important moment -- a potentially important moment, an important step through which they might realize a better life, a better life for themselves, a better life for their children,” he said.

Under the withdrawal plan, nearly 9,000 Israeli settlers were required to evacuate the 21 Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip by 12 a.m. local time August 17. On the morning of August 17, Israeli soldiers began forcibly removing settlers who refused to follow the evacuation order.

McCormack said that, despite the high emotions surrounding the withdrawal, the Israeli people understand that this disengagement is necessary “in order to realize a more peaceful, more stable, more secure Israel.”

The State Department spokesman also said that a successful and peaceful withdrawal would provide the Palestinians with greater freedom of movement within Gaza and the ability to begin laying the foundations for a more promising future. He said it could re-energize the road map peace process, which envisions the creation of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel.

The only report of serious violence in connection with the withdrawal came not from Gaza but from the West Bank, where an Israeli settler opened fire on a group of Palestinian workers, killing three people and wounding two. McCormack condemned the attack and expressed the United States’ condolences to the families of the victims.

He said the United States has been in contact with both the Israelis and the Palestinians to urge restraint and respect for the rule of law in order to avoid exacerbating the situation.

Source: International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State

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