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Last Updated: Monday, 20 June 2005, 23:42 GMT 00:42 UK
Settlements seen across the divide
Palestinian workers wait to cross into Gush Katif
Palestinians have found themselves caged because of settlements
BBC correspondent Richard Miron has spent a week living in Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip that are due to be evacuated by the Israeli army.

In the final instalment of a series about his experiences, he looks at how Palestinians view the settlements on their doorstep.


For my final day in Gaza I have decided to see how the settlements appear to the Palestinians.

In order to cross from the Jewish settlements into the small area where about 1.3m Palestinians are crammed in, I must travel along the single road out of Gush Katif and then 40km (25 miles) north to the Erez crossing point - the sole gate of entry through which I am allowed into the Palestinian side.

One man told me he had been waiting for three days to get home - and others had been there even longer
Erez is a series of fortified checkpoints, including hydraulic gates, turnstiles and cameras.

Few Palestinians are allowed to cross make their way through the succession of barriers.

Once across I am greeted by a huddle of people - mostly either young or old - who are all very unwell.

An old men sits on a chair holding X-ray pictures. A young child without hair, his head protected by baseball cap waits silently to cross to the Israeli side.

They are heading to Israeli hospitals for medical treatment - but even with official permission they may have to wait hours to cross.

I drive south along the coast and past the first Jewish settlement of Netzarim. It sits on its own - separate from the other settlements. Its houses and lawns stand out amid the surrounding sandy earth which has been cleared of buildings and trees by the Israeli army.

I am told it is too dangerous to approach.

Deir al-Balah refugee camp is half-way down the Gaza Strip. Life here is a total contrast to the other side.

It is poor and crowded. Pedestrians jostle for space on the street with donkey carts and noisy old cars.

At the edge of the refugee camp where the street ends is another settlement, Kfar Darom.

Hamas poster in Khan Younis
Hamas claims the uprooting of Jewish settlements as a victory
The Palestinian buildings are pock-marked with gunfire - the result of firefights between the Israeli army and militants.

Many Palestinian civilians have been killed here and the scars from the fighting mark numerous residential buildings.

Driving further south, I go under the bridge that the settlers cross to get in and out of Gush Katif.

Unlike the free-flowing traffic above I am kept waiting tensely in a line of cars.

We sit patiently for the signal from the concrete Israeli army sentry post to proceed - everyone drives here with extreme caution.

Israeli soldiers and settlers are in the vicinity but are hidden away, either behind fortifications or in their cars.

The absence of contact between the two sides is illustrative of the gulf that exists between Israelis and Palestinians.

Each side is brutally aware of the other, yet ignorant of the details of their existence.

Khan Younis refugee camp is situated next to the settlement of Neve Dekalim where I have been living for the past week.

To the Palestinians, Neve Dekalim and the other settlements are to blame for the death, danger and absolute disruption which accompany their everyday lives
Both places are disconnected from each other. The sea which stretches out in front of Khan Younis is unreachable to almost all Palestinians.

A number of people from the Bedouin Muasi tribe have permission to cross, to get back to their homes inside Gush Katif.

They are forced to wait at a primitive tin-covered shelter by a checkpoint.

Old men and young women are all crowded together huddling in the shade. One man told me he had been waiting for three days to get home - and others had been there even longer.

To journey through Gaza alongside the settlements is to witness a completely contrary image to the one I encountered in the settlements.

To the Palestinians, Neve Dekalim and the other settlements are to blame for the death, danger and absolute disruption which accompany their everyday lives.

Palestinian donkey cart skirts around Gush Katif settlement
Life continues at a very different pace for Gaza's Palestinians
Settlers view Khan Younis, Deir al-Balah and nearby Rafah as the enemy responsible for sowing violence and threatening their existence.

On the wall outside a mosque in Khan Younis I spot a poster from the militant group Hamas. In it, a hooded man with a gun holds a group of Jewish settlers' houses in his hands that have been plucked up from the earth.

The meaning is clear - the Jewish settlers are on the way out and the Islamic militants are on the way in.

But the settlers believe that no-one, not Hamas nor the Israeli government is going to uproot them.

With their religious faith and political convictions, they are determined to derail government any efforts to get them out.

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