Gush Katif Hotel Safe - For Now

Rumors continue to fly at the Maoz Yam hotel in Gush that the army will raid the site in the coming hours and attempt to clear it out. The Sabbath is apparently arriving just in time, however.

, | updated: 12:16 PM

Some 200 people - mainly youths but some families as well - now populate the hotel, formerly known as the Palm Beach Hotel. They are generally considered the more "militant" part of the local population, and most of them did not live in Gush Katif until several weeks ago.

The hotel people themselves, however, dispute this. "The police have an interest in portraying us as violent extremists," says Aryeh Yitzchaki, an official in the Kela Adminstration. Kela is an acronym for "Absorption in Gaza," and is the body that is behind much of the wave of "immigration" to Gush Katif over the last few months. "Some 140 new families have arrived in the past few weeks," Yitzchaki said, "including many to the hotel, and we have plans for 200 more families to arrive [throughout Gush Katif]."

Though some of the residents moved in to the hotel a year ago or so, the army did not take the opportunity a few weeks ago to close off the hotel when more and more new young residents began arriving. Over the past month or so, the new "guests" have cleaned up the hotel, made the vandalized rooms livable - and often said that they wish to make an expulsion even more difficult than it already is shaping up to be.

One military source said that the original thought was to "funnel" all the extremists to one place, where it would be easier to deal with them - but now, the security forces are not sure how to remove them from the hotel without violence. Neither is there a legal pretext to do so, as the hotel is legally rented out from its owners.

Yitzchaki says that, contrary to some reports, "we have not enclosed the area with barbed wire or anything like that. There is a wooden fence around the whole hotel, and there is a separation between residents who came here a year ago and the rest of us, but that's it."

He said that there are "provocateurs on both sides. The violent incident of last week in which some Arabs were hurt was a provocation, as for years we have walked freely on this beach, but this time [the Arabs] came to an area that they don't usually come to." The police have said that they want to question or arrest some of the suspects, but have not yet arrived at the hotel to serve the warrants.

"I can tell you that we have already caught three GSS (Shabak) agents here," Yitzchaki told Arutz-7's correspondent today, "who attempted to blend in with the local population. This past Passover, four boys came dressed up as yeshiva boys - but when they awoke early on the first day of the holiday to go to synagogue and began to put on tefillin [which is worn only on non-holidays], we realized that they were not quite who they said they were. Just two weeks, two other 'yeshiva boys' being hosted at a private family talked out in the middle of the Kiddush prayer [when talking is not permitted] about how good the challah bread was..."

"If the police try to take over the hotel," another resident said, "it will be an illegal step. Unlike some of the outposts, we are totally legal, as the hotel owner has rented it out to us and allowed us to sub-let the rooms to others."

Yitzchaki said that there have been rumors since last night that the police were on their way to clear them out, "but now with the onset of the Sabbath, we don't expect anything until tomorrow night or next week; United Torah Judaism is in the government, after all. In the meantime, more people will be coming, including today, and we'll see."