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Gaza protesters take over abandoned hotel

Associated Press

PALM BEACH HOTEL, Gaza Strip – Jewish settlers led by well-known extremists have taken over an abandoned beachfront hotel in the Gaza Strip and plan to move in hundreds of people opposed to Israel’s withdrawal this summer.

The settlers spruced up the dilapidated rooms, slapped a fresh coat of plaster on the walls and transformed the Palm Beach Hotel into the settlement outpost of Maoz Hayam, or “Fortress By The Sea.”

“It is basic conditions. But people, for the land of Israel, are willing to do this,” Nadia Matar, a settler activist leading the hotel project, said Tuesday.

Israeli authorities fear the hotel will become a stronghold of resistance to the pullout, but cannot take any action against the settlers now because the hotel is private property.

Once a thriving vacation spot for Israeli tourists, the hotel was abandoned when Israeli-Palestinian violence broke out 4 1/2 years ago and business dried up.

Thieves stripped it down – stealing window frames, toilets, kitchen appliances and anything else of value – and young squatters who liked the beach view and the good surfing took up residence.

Several weeks ago, settlers began preparing the hotel to accommodate families who want to move to Gaza to fight the pullout.

About 20 families now live in the hotel, but Matar hopes to bring in about 100. Donations, including many from abroad, fund the cleanup, she said.

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