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In a meeting held Sunday evening the heads of Yesha Council of Settlements told the IDF Chief of Staff, Moshe Ya'alon, that according to their estimates thousands of soldiers in mandatory and reserve service will refuse to take part in the evacuation of settlements, whether publicly or covertly.

Thus far, 5,000 soldiers have signed petitions expressing their willingness to refuse orders to varying degrees. The petitions were circulated by the right-wing Defensive Shield movement led by Noam Livnat. The movement circulated several versions of the petition, some calling for public refusal and some for covert refusal.

Earlier on Sunday, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said the evacuation of settlements under the disengagement plan will be carried out by police forces and by Israel Defense Forces soldiers in their mandatory service.

In the meeting, the heads of the Yesha Council demanded that Lieutenant General Ya'alon bid the government not to use IDF troops for the task of evacuating settlements. They restated their stance opposing violence and refusal, but estimated that support for refusal will be substantial.

"I share your concern over refusal, but it is already beyond our control," Yesha Council Chairman, Bentzy Lieberman told the IDF chief.

"As soon as three leading rabbis endorse refusal in their Halacha rulings, as thousands of soldiers already support refusal by having signed petitions prepared by extra-parliamentary right-wing organizations over which we have no control - we can only express our opinion, and this we are doing, but nothing more," Lieberman said

"We agree this is dangerous," the chairman told Ya'alon, adding that "the solution does not lie with us, but with the political leadership."

According to Lieberman, only the approval of the disengagement in a referendum or public elections would contribute to effectively countering refusal.

The chief of staff told the council heads he expects them to exercise their leadership and lead the opposition to disengagement in a responsible and level-headed manner.

The heads of the Yesha Council repeated their opinion that the order to evacuate is illegal and immoral, and that personally they would be willing to go to jail and would even call on the public to do so, in a mass campaign using civil disobedience to oppose the disengagement.

Mofaz: IDF and police will evacuate settlementsShaul Mofaz said on Sunday police forces and IDF soldiers in their mandatory service will carry out the evacuation of settlements in the Gush Katif area of the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank.

According to the defense minister, reserve soldiers will replace regular army soldiers in their ongoing missions.

Speaking Sunday at the weekly cabinet meeting, he also said he has ordered IDF officers to shorten the period of time required to evacuate settlements in order to ease the process for all involved parties.

The defense establishment will deal with all problems faced by those being evacuated and with the temporary storage of their belongings.

Mofaz also said that the sooner the Evacuation-Compensation Bill is approved, the easier it will be on those settlers being evacuated. "It is important that a decision over compensation is made as early as possible in order to allow residents to begin to prepare," Mofaz said.

Mofaz told ministers Sunday that he learned from the lessons of the 1982 Yamit evacuation.

He said all efforts must be made in order to allow children being evacuated to continue their school studies in their new places of residence.

Forces have been directed to evacuate settlers from their homes in the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank sensitively but with determination, Mofaz said.