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Cash Advances for Settlers Backed

Israel's Sharon hopes plan approved by his Cabinet will encourage voluntary moves.

September 15, 2004|From Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Israeli Cabinet ministers approved cash advances Tuesday of up to $115,000 to Jewish settlers willing to leave their homes in the Gaza Strip and West Bank -- the first concrete step toward carrying out Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's contentious pullout plan.

Sharon wants to pull out of all 21 Gaza settlements and four small ones in the West Bank in 2005, removing 8,500 settlers from their homes. After four years of conflict with the Palestinians, Sharon says the moves are needed to improve security and preempt new international peace plans.

The prime minister hopes cash advances will entice many settlers to leave voluntarily, averting confrontations between settlers and Israeli troops.

Violence between Israelis and Palestinians continued early today. At least five Palestinian militants were killed in the West Bank city of Nablus during a gun battle with soldiers, Palestinian security officials and witnesses said.

Tuesday's 9-1 vote endorsed guidelines that would pay uprooted families $200,000 to $350,000 each, depending on the size of their homes and how long they lived there, according to data presented to ministers.

In the meantime, cash advances of up to one-third of the final compensation package will be offered from reserve funds, a senior official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. He said the funds could be available "within days."

Legislation formalizing the guidelines is expected to go to parliament in November, the official said.

Israeli security officials have repeatedly voiced concerns that opposition to Sharon's plan could turn violent, and police say the prime minister and an official planning the withdrawal have received death threats from Jewish extremists.

Tuesday's statement by Jerusalem police commander Ilan Franco marked the first time a senior security official had mentioned the threats.

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