Thousands of Palestinian security men have been trained for a special force to take over the settlements in the Gaza Strip after the planned pullout, a top Palestinian security official said Wednesday.
Palestinian Preventive Security chief in Gaza, Rashid Abu Shbak, told Reuters that men from several branches of the forces had been brought into the unit that was given special training focused on ensuring order.
"If settlements are kept intact, the Palestinian
security forces would deploy in those areas to take over control ... To prevent the curious and those who seek destruction or any illegal entry," Abu Shbak said.
The way in which the Palestinians assume control is seen as a test that could have bearing on any future peace negotiations with Israel for a state on land in both Gaza and the West Bank.
Concerns are rife on both sides that a plethora of security forces would fail to prevent scenes of chaos, allowing Islamic militants or other armed groups to emerge dominant.
Settler homes may be used for tourism
Security forces in Gaza have more than 30,000 members.
Abu Shbak said up to 20,000 men might eventually be involved in the takeover, assuming Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon carries out his planned withdrawal from the 21 Gaza Strip settlements.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians have not yet finalized plans for what would happen to the land and any buildings that remain, he said.
"The fate of the settlements will be decided by a
national committee as part of a plan," Abu Shbak said. "There is no decision yet, but there are ideas under study."
He said these included using former settler homes
to house Palestinians whose dwellings had been demolished by Israeli troops during the conflict. Otherwise they might become part of tourism or industrial projects.