JERUSALEM – About 250 Gaza villagers branded as collaborators by their neighbors and protected by a cordon of Israeli soldiers moved Monday to an area outside the southern Israeli town of Arad as part of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
The members of the southern Gaza village of Dahaniya (search), who feared they would be killed if they were abandoned during the pullout, will receive Israeli compensation similar to that given to the 8,500 Jewish settlers evacuated from Gaza, said Shlomo Dror, a military spokesman.
Israel originally said it would raze the village, which is near the now-closed Gaza airport, and force those living there to move into Palestinian cities in Gaza.
The residents protested Israel's plan and filed a case with the Supreme Court demanding they be allowed to move into Israel. They argued Israel had left them with a dangerous reputation because it once used the village as a transit point for Palestinian collaborators.
Nearly all the villagers were moved to Israel years ago, but the town's stigma remained. Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel often receive the death sentence in Palestinian court or are killed by militant groups.
"It is accepted on the Palestinian street that everyone who comes from Dahaniya is a collaborator," said their lawyer, Chaim Mandelbaum. "They are seen as enemies of the Palestinian people."
Earlier this month, with the court case still pending, Israel changed its plans and decided to allow the Dahaniya residents to move inside the country.
"We have a feeling of responsibility," Dror said.
This is the second time the residents of Dahaniya have been uprooted.
Most of the villagers were Bedouins (search) living in the Sinai Peninsula (search) when Israel captured it and the Gaza Strip from Egypt in the 1967 Mideast War. Israel took their land in exchange for land straddling the Egypt-Gaza border and created the village of Dahaniya for them.
During the first Palestinian uprising in the late 1980s, Israel sent collaborators who had been unmasked by their neighbors to Dahaniya in the southern corner of Gaza as a transit station before relocating them to Israel, leaving the collaborator stigma behind.
Most of the families of Dahaniya moved Monday to an area outside Arad, though several families chose to move into the southern Gaza town of Rafah in hopes of moving back to Egypt, said Abed Shtewi, a village representative.
"There are hard feelings," he said. "We are moving from place to place. For 30 years we lived there. This is a hard situation for all of us."
A Bedouin community in Israel's Negev desert, the Janabib clan, has agreed to accept the residents, Shtewi and Dror said. Israel has flattened an area for the evacuees' tents and brought water trucks, bathrooms and showers, Dror said.