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Middle East

Gaza: 'We're not packing. The army must take us out'

Mr Slater, 46, said: "No we are not packing up. We want to stay here. We don't think it's good for Israel. If they want to take us out, then that's what they'll have to do and they'll have to take our things."

What about the threat that they would lose a third of their compensation by staying beyond the deadline? "I have heard about this but there are things that are worth more than money. This is important."

Mr Slater used to work for an agricultural business in the settlements, which is now closed. Apart from his presence in the house in the middle of the day, an atmosphere of normality prevailed. His daughter Tirza, 14, peeled potatoes for the afternoon meal. They went to a communal ceremony at which the residents of Neve Dekalim prayed together, possibly for the last time.

The family was, said Mr Slater, simply passing the time. The family had discussed what to do. "We told the children they could go if they wanted but they all wanted to stay."

Tirza said: "It's important to be here. I don't want to leave when other people are staying and fighting to stay. It's very hard to leave and anyway I don't want to be separated from my parents."

Mr Slater said he had few personal feelings. "This is not really our problem; I can get on with my life. It is a problem for the whole nation. There is nowhere in the world that would give land to its enemies. If you run away from terror it will come after you. It won't stop."

Mr Slater praises George Bush and Tony Blair for fighting "terror in Iraq", but when it is pointed out that both men support Ariel Sharon's disengagement policy, he says he cannot understand why they don't apply what he sees as the same criteria to what is happening in Israel, adding improbably: "Perhaps it's because we are Jews."

Mrs Slater, 45, whose mother was born in London, is less dispassionate. "What do I feel?" she asks. "Sadness, frustration, anger. Is that enough?" Mr Slater says they know only that they will go to "some hotel" after the evacuation. And when the army come? "We will try to convince them, tell them they are doing something wrong, something bad. I guess we won't convince them. They're only soldiers. They are only doing their job. Then we'll go. We won't fight."