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MILITARY TAKES FIRST STEP IN GAZA STRIP PULLOUT

The Israeli military began removing shipping containers today from a base in the Gaza Strip, the army's first step toward a planned pullout this summer.

A crane lifted the containers onto flatbed trucks, which drove out of the base in the Jewish settlement of Neve Dekalim, the largest in Gaza. In all, 30 containers containing furniture, computers, weapons and uniforms were to be removed, the army said, although the base won't be completely dismantled until the end of the withdrawal.

The equipment was removed as Israel's government considered delaying the start of the pullout by three weeks to Aug. 15. A decision is expected this week.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz have sent mixed signals on whether they favor a delay.

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