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Sinai Settlers Claim Victory

Ultra-nationalists determined to block Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai next April claimed a “victory” today after the government reached a compromise with Gush Emunim militants in northern Sinai to halt the dismantling of buildings and equipment slated for transportation to relocation areas inside Israel.

According to the agreement, Jewish Agency workers at Moshav Haruvit will remove parts of a greenhouse already taken down but will not dismantle any other structures. Hanan Porat, of the ultra-nationalist Tehiya faction who has demonstratively moved to Yamit, hailed the compromise as “a great victory.”

Squatters in northern Sinai, mainly yeshiva students, began reassembling green-house frames to prevent their removal. The squatters spokeswoman, Elie Weitzman, said, “This is a great victory. We have stopped the disgraceful withdrawal from Sinai.” The squatters warned Gen. Haim Erez, commander of the southern region last night that they would forcibly resist any attempt by the army to halt their activities or remove them from the area.

Army units are at the scene but have not interfered with the squatters despite a government ruling recently that all settlers must be out of the region by March 31. The area is to be returned to Egypt by April 26. This would leave only three weeks to remove houses and equipment. But the Jerusalem Post reported today that a secret agreement has been reached with the Egyptians to allow Israel to remove all structures and facilities from Yamit and elsewhere in Sinai after the final withdrawal date in order to avoid clashes with the settlers.

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