Majority of Gaza Strip evacuees have housing

One hundred days after Israel began its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the majority of settlers evicted from settlements in the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank have found either temporary or permanent housing, according to government and settler data. Some 1,460 of the 1,800 families evacuated from the settlements in August have purchased homes, rented apartments or found other accommodations. Families, large and small, have fanned out across Israel from the Golan Heights to the Negev Desert. The large cluster comprising several communities, envisioned in Israel proper either for the Nitzanim area between Ashdod and Ashkelon, or in the Western Negev failed to materialize with settlers dispersed among nearly 30 different Israeli cities and villages, according to data collated by the Committee of Gush Katif Communities, a branch of the Yesha Council. Of the 334 families still in hotels, guesthouses or vacation villages more than a third are due to move into so-called "caravillas," or super-sized trailer homes in the Nitzan area, according to Haim Altman, spokesman for the Disengagement Authority (SELA). All but 200 families have concluded or are in the midst of negotiations with the government over their compensation, said Altman. According to the Government Employment Service, 1,990 of Gush Katif's former residents - 75 percent of the income-earners - are unemployed to date. Most Gush Katif settlers, some 1,300 of 1,600 that applied for compensation, have received cash advances to help them through the transition phase. Some 800 have received either 75 or 100 percent of their compensation, while 515 others received cash infusions of about NIS 50,000. In another attempt to find a housing solution for Gaza evacuees, the government approved a construction project on Sunday that would permanently house some 800 families in three different locations. Some 400 housing units would be built in the Nitzanim area a coastal stretch between Ashdod and Ashkelon. Another 250 housing units would be built in the community of Nitzan, just off the coastal Highway and another 150 housing units are earmarked for Ashkelon. While Altman proudly read one settler's glowing letter of thanks to SELA, many settler groups continue to complain about the government's treatment. Fifty of the houses are allocated for some 60 Kfar Darom families, according to the government. Asher Mivtzari, spokesman for the Kfar Darom families, said his group rejected the government housing. "The apartments the government promised are not ready, so talk of relocation is irrelevant," said Mivtzari. Former Kfar Darom secretary Gershon Yona said "the government hasn't invested a single shekel," in the project. According to their agreement with the government, the final touches would be put on what the government says is a NIS 10 million apartment block as soon as Kfar Darom settlers agreed to move there. However, during the weekend, representatives of the Kfar Darom settlers announced that they refused to move to the complex because they are not accustomed to living in multi-story buildings and that they should be relocated to houses. Mivtzari alleged that the "government isn't living up to its promises." The sixty families evacuated in August remain "refugees in the Paradise hotel," in Beersheba, Mivtzari added wryly. Settler and government representatives are to meet Sunday night to hammer out an agreement to accommodate the settlers.