Abbas calls for calm ahead of Gaza pullout
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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Anticipating the withdrawal of Israeli forces and settlers from Gaza beginning August 15, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for the pullout to be orderly in a speech to the Palestinian Legislative Council Tuesday.
According to Abbas, Palestinians are responsible for maintaining security during the transition.
"This will be a prerequisite to ensure that the withdrawal will take place in a civilized manner," Abbas said. "We'll be able to show the world that we deserve our independence and our freedom. We have no other choice."
The Israeli Cabinet on Sunday voted to approve the first stage of the withdrawal.
Before the vote, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resigned from his post as finance minister to protest the withdrawal plan. (Full story)
Israel's pullout plan will involve the withdrawal of Israeli troops and about 9,000 Jewish settlers in Gaza and four small areas of the West Bank, beginning Monday with three isolated settlements.
"We want the Israelis to leave," Abbas said. "They want to leave -- so let us let them leave."
The Israeli government has said the disengagement plan, proposed in February 2004, will redraw the landscape of the Middle East, allowing for the possible resumption of the peace process with the Palestinian Authority.
Israel seized the West Bank from Jordan and Gaza from Egypt in 1967 during the Six-Day War and began building settlements there soon after.
Gaza, a 140-square-mile area of coastal land between Israel and the Mediterranean, is home to about 1.3 million Palestinians.
Abbas called the pullout "only the first withdrawal" and warned Palestinians not to celebrate too much. Israeli forces and settlers will remain in many parts of the West Bank.
"The road ahead is long," the Palestinian leader said.
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