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Mofaz Changes Stand, Favors Demolishing Homes

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has reversed his position and proposed that Jewish homes in Gaza be demolished instead of given to the PA. He also said terror attacks may delay the evacuation.
First Publish: 6/19/2005, 9:17 AM / Last Update: 6/19/2005, 2:21 AM

Mofaz suggested to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Saturday night that Israel tear down the homes of more than 9,000 Jews scheduled to be forced to move elsewhere and let the Palestinian Authority (PA) remove the debris. He previously has favored leaving the houses intact because demolition and removal of debris would take several months and endanger Israeli troops.

The Defense Minister said the rubble could be used by the PA to build a port in Gaza, which Israel has opposed in the past. IDF officers and PA officials have warned that the PA will not be able to keep terrorists from overrunning the vacated houses. They also fear that thousands of Arabs will swarm on the houses and tear them apart for building material.

Mofaz also changed his stance on the timetable of the evacuation and for the first time conceded that it will be delayed if terrorists attack during the operation, which is expected to take from three weeks to two months. He previously has vowed that the PA and IDF would prevent terrorist attacks to ensure withdrawal will not take place "under fire."

He also complained to Rice that the PA "is not doing anything" to arrest wanted terrorists. Mofaz said he is worried about the increasing strength of the Hamas terror organization within the PA. "Abu Mazen's policy is to make them a part of the PA. They declare they are obligated to 'calm' but they continue to fire Kassam rockets," he stated.

Mofaz warned Rice that Hezbollah terrorists probably will try to attack Israel before or during the planned evacuation.