Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said on Thursday that he hopes pullout from the Gaza Strip and four minor northern West Bank settlements to take two to three weeks, Israeli sources reported.

Mofaz expressed belief that Gaza Strip settlers began to come to terms with the idea of evacuating their settlements despite incitement by the Yesha Council and the right-wingers against disengagement.

Mofaz confirmed that the pullout will begin in the second week of August and settlers will be informed that they have two days to depart leave being evacuated.

Israeli military officials expect that at least half of the settlers will leave of their own free will.

Israeli officials stated earlier that number of settlers who registered with the disengagement administration (Sela) is increasing rapidly, which reflects signs that settlers are internalizing the idea that they will have to leave in any case.

Mofaz said that the rejection of the settlers petitions by the High Court to delay the pullout and the Knesset vote that rejected the delay in addition to the failure of the settlers’ leaders to attract the desired number of protestors resulted in many settlers giving up the fight.

Other contributing factors were the terms of the Evacuation-Compensation Law, which reduces the sums paid to evacuees after August 17, and the pictures of families leaving, he said.

Israeli observers however, believe that the compensation law for the disengagement will create seven thousand new right-wing millionaires.

Following the evacuation, the Israeli army will remain in the Gaza Strip for one more week to demolish the settlers’ houses.

At the same time, police will be sent to northern West Bank to help the army evacuate four settlements there.

The real handover of the Gaza strip will not be until several week after the pullout is completed.  During these weeks, the army will remain in Gaza to evacuate the military bases there.

Mofaz said that he is worried that some extremist settlers will fire at the army during the evacuation process, and that they may even attempt to commit suicide in protest to their eviction.

Over the past year, Mofaz met at least 35 times with army officials in order to formulate plans for withdrawal. Mofaz said that this pullout is a “supreme test of the rule of law in Israel”.

“Pullout decision was taken by democratic means”, Mofaz said, “Now that state will put this decision into practice”.

Also, Mofaz added that he is “pleased” by the level of cooperation between the army, police and the defense ministry.

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