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Gaza settlers' greenhouses to be handed to Palestinians

Private foundation pays as settlers prepare to leave Gaza

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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- A private foundation has raised $14 million to buy most of the greenhouses in Jewish settlements in Gaza, a representative of former Israeli Knesset member Yossi Beilin said Friday.

The Economic Cooperation Foundation will transfer the money to the settlers and the greenhouses will be handed over to the Palestinian Authority.

The money was raised by International Quartet special envoy James Wolfensohn, a former World Bank president who also contributed $500,000 of his money.

Beilin is one of the heads of the foundation and was involved in the talks.

The announcement of the deal comes three days before the Israeli government will officially inform 9,000 Israeli Jews in 21 settlements in Gaza and four small settlements in the West Bank that they must leave as part of the government's disengagement plan.

Israel has occupied the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza since the Six-Day War in 1967.

Pre-disengagement move

The move, spearheaded by longtime settlement supporter Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, is being applauded by some Israeli Jews and bitterly opposed by others.

In light of the opposition -- before the disengagement begins next week -- a policy change announced Thursday bans nonresidents from the territory. The policy change was prompted by activists staying in Gaza to protest Israel's plan.

Israel's Southern Command announced "only residents of the Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip will be allowed" entry into Gaza, where the Jewish state plans to end its decades-long presence. Rescue, security forces and service businesses will be allowed in, however.

This announcement said the "policy change was decided upon in light of the illegal presence of a large number of individuals who have remained in the Gaza Strip long after their entry permits expired; these individuals disrupt the daily lives of residents and aim to prevent the implementation of the disengagement plan."

This is a reference to recent infiltration of pro-settler activists into Gush Katif, a collection of 17 separate settlements in Gaza.

The disengagement plan has been greeted positively by Palestinians and throughout the international diplomatic community.

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