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      Gush Katif Residents Resort to Prayers and Protests

      In light of reports that the IDF will withdraw its forces from northern Gaza tomorrow, hundreds of schoolchildren in Gush Katif gathered together for a prayer session of thanksgiving and supplication for the future.
      First Publish: 6/29/2003, 11:25 AM

      In light of reports that the IDF will withdraw its forces from northern Gaza tomorrow, and following the launching of seven mortar shells in Gush Katif yesterday, Gush Katif spokesman Eran Sternberg released the following statement:
      "The residents of Gush Katif are dumbfounded at the loss of all ethics and shame on the part of the decision makers who continue the talks on concessions to the Arabs of the PA while ignoring simultaneous rain of mortar shells."

      Five mortar shells fell in N'vei Dekalim yesterday, causing damage to a home, and two more landed in Netzarim. In addition, terrorists fired last night at an IDF outpost near the hothouses of Ganei Tal; no one was hurt, and IDF soldiers returned fire.

      Gaza Coast Regional Council head Avner Shimoni told katif.net that the passage of Arab vehicles on the Tancher Route - the main Gaza north-south route passing through Kfar Darom - is an "existential danger to IDF soldiers and Gush Katif travelers, including families and children. Our many years of experience and knowledge of the Palestinian enemy has taught us that agreements with them cannot be trusted." He said that he and other Council officials are speaking with government and army officials and "doing everything we can to prevent the opening of the route, but on one thing we will not give in under any circumstances: the passage of Arabs through Kfar Darom. We will stand on the road and not allow it to be opened. At present the Arab traffic will be taking alternate routes, but we have to be prepared for every eventuality on a day-to-day basis."

      On Friday, hundreds of schoolchildren in Gush Katif gathered together for a prayer session of thanksgiving and supplication for the future. Male pupils, teachers, and residents gathered in the main synagogue in N'vei Dekalim, while the women prayed nearby in the local Community Center. The participants recited Psalms and blew the Shofar in light of the dangers the implementation of the Road Map in Gaza appears to hold for them. Regional Chief Rabbi Yigal Kaminetzky addressed the worshipers and said, "Despite the difficulties, we must not be ungrateful for the many miracles that we have seen" - and he led the crowd in the recitation of the Psalm of Thanks (Psalm 100).

      "It is inconceivable that the State of Israel should cede our security and deposit it in Arab hands; it sound totally absurd," Shimoni told Voice of Israel today. "We know very well who Dahlan is; he was responsible for the terrible attack on the bus in Kfar Darom in which two of our friends were killed and children were wounded," including the three Cohen children who lost limbs. Shimoni also quoted O.C. Commander Doron Almog who warned of the dangers of opening the north-south route.

      Avner Shimoni said that many families are "knocking on our doors" to move to Gush Katif, and dismissed questions of "difficult decisions" that might be made in the future. Katif.net noted that Israel Radio then played the popular song "Illusions," leaving listeners to wonder if the producers' political leanings were showing.