The Israel Defense Forces has postponed collecting weapons from Gaza Strip settlers, and will re-examine at the last minute whether there is a need to do so at all, military sources told Haaretz.

Collecting the weapons at this point will cause the settlers to lose confidence in the army, the sources say.

In mid-April, after a meeting with senior officers, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz ordered the army to begin collecting weapons from settlers ahead of the evacuation. Mofaz told IDF officers that the collection was to be coordinated with settler leaders.

Mofaz's directive involves the collection of weapons given by the IDF to settlers serving as security officers of the local authorities, security coordinators of settlements and members of on-call forces in the settlements.

Military sources said these individuals are still carrying out important defense functions in the face of a Palestinian threat, which was shown to be ongoing by the mortar attacks on settlements during the past week. Collecting their weapons will impair their ability to carry out their tasks, and will create a crisis of confidence between them and the army.

Another issue involves small arms, which many settlers have permits from the Interior Ministry to own and carry. The collection of these weapons raises a legal question as to whether a clause in the law can be found that will require settlers to surrender their weapons, without the authorities having to prove that the owner intended to use it for reasons other than self-defense. At the moment, the police and the Interior Ministry are examining settler gun registrations.

Meanwhile, the IDF believes the number of Israelis residing in the Gaza Strip increased only slightly, despite the tens of thousands of people who came to Gush Katif during Passover to identify with the anti- disengagement struggle. A few dozen people apparently did move to the area after Independence Day. However, the residents of Gush Katif are believed not to be encouraging people to move in, fearing the defense establishment will decide to move up the closure of the area to outsiders.