As Israel threatens West Bank annexation, Gazans recall settler withdrawal

GAZA (HRNW) – Vineyard owner Haidar al-Zahar recalls with joy the day in 2005 when Israel removed its settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip, part of a withdrawal that few Palestinians thought they would ever see.

“I felt like a prisoner who suddenly found himself a free man,” he said.

A decade and a half later he is on the warpath as Israel considers whether to annex its settlements in the occupied West Bank, 40 km (25 miles) away, divided from Gaza by Israel and which Palestinians seek as the heartland of a future state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has set July 1 for the start of cabinet discussions on the move, proposed as part of a U.S. peace plan.

He urged Palestinians to wage “armed resistance” to prevent annexation, saying Israel had evacuated its troops and 8,500 settlers from Gaza in part because of Palestinian attacks at the time.

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