Here are some of the facts behind the "disengagement plan":
WHO: There are 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, home to an estimated 8,000 people.
They occupy around 33% of the Gaza Strip's 140 square miles.
The settlers live in an estimated 2,000 houses that are to be demolished three weeks after the start of the evacuation.
The four West Bank enclaves had 674 inhabitants, official figures show.
About 1.4 million Palestinians live in Gaza, more than half of them families of refugees from past wars with Israel.
WHERE: Gaza is an arid, sliver-like wedge of territory at the southeast end of the Mediterranean Sea, about 25 miles long and six miles wide.
It borders Israel to the north and east, and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula to the south.
HISTORY: Gaza was a crossroads of ancient civilisations and has particular religious significance. The Ottoman Empire ruled Gaza for hundreds of years until World War One when it became part of British Mandate Palestine.
It came under Egyptian control in 1948 during the Arab-Israeli war that led to Israel's creation.
Gaza's population tripled in 1948-49 when it absorbed thousands of Palestinian refugees fleeing areas now part of Israel.
Israel captured Gaza, along with the West Bank, Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula, in the 1967 Middle East war.
Jewish settlers began moving into the territory in the early 1970s.
INTIFADA: The first Palestinian Intifada (uprising) began in Gaza in December 1987.
A Palestinian Authority with limited self-rule powers was formed in 1994 after interim peace deals with Israel.
Israel slammed the door after a second Palestinian revolt erupted over the collapse of talks on Palestinian statehood.
In the second uprising, Palestinian militants have staged thousands of shooting, bombing, rocket and mortar attacks on settlers and soldiers in Gaza since 2000.
A February 2005 ceasefire deal at an Israeli-Palestinian summit significantly reduced but has not ended violence in Gaza.
THE PLAN: Ariel Sharon's "disengagement plan" envisages the evacuation of over 8,000 Israelis from 21 heavily-fortified settlements in the Gaza Strip, and hundreds more from four settlements in the northern West Bank.
Numerous Israeli army posts which serve to protect the Gaza settlers will also be removed.
But Israel will keep control of Gaza's borders, coastline and airspace and reserves the right to re-enter the territory at will.
Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip - who live under harsh travel restrictions - will be free to move into the evacuated zones as soon as the Israelis leave.
WHEN: The evacuation began on 15 August.
A two-day grace period will see settlers receive the army's assistance to leave of their own accord.
Once that deadline passes, Israeli security forces will forcibly remove anyone who has not left voluntarily.
The operation is expected to take three or four weeks, with a similar period set aside for the dismantling and evacuation of military installations.
SECURITY: The total Israeli security deployment is thought to top 40,000 personnel, including police and soldiers.
Nearly 30,000 of them will form an "inner circle" around the settlements themselves.
Some 6,800 police will go door-to-door to carry out the evacuation process. They will be divided in 400 teams of around 16 police and soldiers on foot.
Around 5,000 Palestinian security forces are expected to take part in a back-up operation aimed at ensuring militants do not seek to disrupt the evacuation.
COMPENSATION: The Israeli government has allocated a budget of three billion shekels (£350m) for the settlers' financial compensation.
Each one of the families is expected to receive between £100,000 and £200,000 in compensation, in addition to two years' rent before they decide on permanent housing.
Those who fail to leave Gaza willingly could lose the subsidies.
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