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Settler officials begin collecting weapons ahead of pullout

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Tel Aviv (dpa) - Israeli officials have begun collecting the personal weapons of Gaza Strip settlers slated to be evacuated in the upcoming Israeli pullout, the Ma'ariv daily reported Tuesday.

The operation began Monday, with 50 pistols being collected including M-16 and Gillon assault rifles.

The intention is to collect all the guns in the Gaza settlements, with the exception of those of settlement security coordinators and members of local security teams.

However, several settlers have said they will not give up their weapons as instructed.

"I have no intention of depositing my gun with anyone .. We are in a war zone and this gun is earmarked for self-defence and not to hurt soldiers and police officers,'' Ma'ariv quoted an unnamed resident of the Gush Katif settlement block as saying.

The Israeli daily quoted a high-ranking official of the Gaza Coast Regional Council as justifying the decision to collect the weapons two-and-a-half weeks before the pullout gets underway.

"We are entering a very sensitive period. In order to prevent any mishaps that might be caused by the stormy emotional state we are all in, we've begun to gather the weapons,'' the official said. dpa jab sr

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