Some 800 of the 1,700 families living in Gaza Strip settlements slated for evacuation are refusing to accept government compensation to relocate, the head of the office overseeing the disengagement plan said Wednesday.
Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, Yonatan Bassi refused to say how many of these familises in Gush Katif and northen Gaza were among hard-core families who will refuse to leave the Strip.
In regards to sites designated for relocation, Bassi said settlers who choose to move to the Negev would receive one dunum (0.25 acres) of land and USD 30,000 monetary compensation.
But he said the same conditions could not be provided to families that resettle north of Ashkelon.
Families that relocate to northern sites would receive up to half a dunum (0.12 acres) of land and no financial compensation, he said.
"On the whole, we would prefer for groups to settle in the Galilee and Negev, " he said. "However, each individual can choose to move wherever they like."
Bassi said a plan was discussed to expand the Nitzan community between Ashdod and Ashkelon to include an extra 450 families from the Gaza settlement of Neveh Dekalim.
Such a plan could provide an answer to Gush Katif evacuees seeking to maintain the religious and community-centered lifestyle they have grown accustomed to while living in the Gush Katif settlement bloc.
"We'll try to provide them with all the amenities they currently have in Neveh Dekalim," he said, "and if 450 families don't sign up, other settlements not wanting to work in agriculture can be moved there."
Bassi said all settlers ready to leave before the pullout process begins can do so as the Knesset will safeguard their full compensation until the 2005 state budget is approved.
Hundreds of families are already in talks with the disengagement office, he said.
"However, they need time to organize their needs," he said. "The matter cannot be closed until every family has signed on."