June 9, 2005 in Nation/World

Gaza pullout deemed legal by high court

Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Supporters of the Islamic group Hamas display copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, during a demonstration in Gaza City on Wednesday. The protest was against alleged desecration of several copies of the Quran by Israeli soldiers during a search inside prison cells of Palestinian inmates.
(Full-size photo)

JERUSALEM – Israel’s Supreme Court ruled today a Gaza withdrawal plan is legal, removing the last obstacle to this summer’s pullout.

The 11-judge panel rejected 12 petitions by opponents to the withdrawal from all Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements, ruling the pullout does not violate the settlers’ human rights.

Ten of the judges ruled the law was legal. The minority opinion of one judge said the law is illegal and should be canceled.

Yoram Sheftel, an attorney for the settlers, said his expectations were low because the Supreme Court has a tendency of ruling against Jewish settlers.

“We didn’t expect anything from this court since the petitioners are Jews and patriots,” Sheftel said. “This was fully expected. There’s no surprise. I’m not disappointed because we didn’t have any expectations.”

Other settler leaders dismissed the ruling as irrelevant, and vowed to resist the evacuation.

Meanwhile, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas traveled to Gaza on Wednesday to reinforce a shaky truce with Israel and settle disputes with militant groups, but violence punctuated his visit as fighters fired rockets at Jewish settlements and Israel responded with an airstrike.

Abbas was expected to remain in Gaza for several days, holding talks with Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders as well as his Fatah party about a range of issues.

For the second day in a row, Hamas and Islamic Jihad cells aimed rockets and mortar shells at Jewish settlements. No casualties were reported. Three workers were killed by a mortar shell Tuesday.

Israel hit back Wednesday afternoon. In a strike clearly designed to limit political fallout, an Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a mortar launcher and an empty vehicle, while the militants escaped.

The renewed violence, which comes despite a truce declared four months ago, was Abbas’ first subject. On arrival in Gaza, he denounced the Israeli airstrike.

The cease-fire, declared Feb. 8 at a summit in Egypt by Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, does not appear in danger of collapse, because both sides are intent on preserving it. However, flare-ups like those of the past two days can spiral out of control.

The violence is linked to internal Palestinian conflicts. Hamas is fielding candidates in a parliamentary election for the first time, and its leaders are angry with Abbas for announcing an indefinite postponement of the election, originally set for July 17.

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