The right of return
Just when ya think you've seen the last of those whiny settlers, they're baaaack. At least back to Gaza. I'm reminded of a taxi driver I struck up a random conversation with two weeks ago who said he was sure the settlers would never leave. "Even if they leave, they'll come back at some point. You wait and see." :)
I got a call from a Palestinian I'm in touch with-a resident of the fenced in area of Ma'ani adjacent to the isolated and hardline colony of Kfar Darom in the Palestinian town of Dair Balah in central Gaza on Monday. He told me he'd seen the settlers-all 150 of them-return earlier that morning in "new air-conditioned" buses, to dismantle their greenhouses and pack up their things (what, they didn't think to do this in the 6 months advance notice they were given BEFORE disengagement??).
"The same people we have seen in the past are back, in great numbers, packing their things up," Abdullah Maani told me.
"Nearly all the settlers are back - even the settlement leader. They seem to be dismantling their greenhouses. Each settler came with a busload of workers to help them."
"If you don't believe me here, talk to someone else" said Maani, passing the phone to another man.
"At about 10am this morning, we were surprised to see military vehicles and buses transporting Israeli civilians towards Kfar Darom," said Kamal Abo Msaddir, an assistant to a team of paramedics from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society who were allowed inside the closed off Palestinian enclave on Monday.
"They are still here, in groups guarded by tanks. There are about 150 of them alongside new buses and next to their hothouses. I am looking at them as I speak," he told me, adding that water, food and medicine were in short supply in the Palestinian community.
"It takes about 48 hours for us to coordinate a humanitarian visit to al-Ma'ani with the Israeli army," said Abo Msaddir.
An Israeli Army spokesperson I talked to said the settlers had indeed returned; that they were "allowed to enter to take their belongings". She did not mention an exact date for their (second) departure.
The community of Ma'ani has been under an Israeli-imposed lockdown for nearly three weeks now, since the start of the disengagement plan. Residents have only been only allowed out for four hours on Saturdays to buy food.
Ma'ani has been fenced in by the Israeli army since July 2002, when it was declared a closed military zone. All vehicles are prevented from moving in and out of the area.
Access for residents and international organisations has also been extremely restricted.