Toilets lie on the kerb, trees are uprooted and roofs stripped of tiles When Israeli soldiers come to evacuate settlers as part of the Gaza withdrawal which starts on Monday, they will find a ghost town. While many settlers in southern Gaza's Gush Katif bloc are vowing to stay until the bitter end, Nisanit, whose residents came mostly for its high quality of life rather than because of religious ideology, is already well into the process of disappearing from the map. The abandonment of Nisanit, northern Gaza's largest settlement, is the most tangible indication yet that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to unilaterally pull out of the 21 Gaza colonies is becoming a reality. Proponents of the withdrawal, the first pullout from land Palestinians view as part of an envisioned state, argue that the 8,000 settlers in Gaza are so outnumbered by the 1.3 million Palestinians that they have no future. Israeli opponents view the step as a retreat that will be seen by Palestinians as a sign of weakness, while the Palestinians suspect the pullout is a ruse for Mr Sharon to consolidate Israel's hold on the West Bank. In Nisanit, most houses are empty. The grocery store has closed, a freezer that probably held ice cream discarded in the street. Windows are missing from many of the homes. So are their red tile roofs. Toilets from dismantled bathrooms lie on the kerb. Workmen at one house were packing lemon and orange trees they had uprooted into a truck en route to their being replanted or stored at a nursery. 'The Palestinians won't need these,' said one worker. Sarit Bar was removing the red tiles from the roof of her brother's house. 'We'll store these and at least we can use them somewhere else,' she said. Another man, with wavy black hair, was doing the same. 'The main thing is that those who hate us, the murderers, don't get this,' he said But there has also been another impetus to the picking apart of Nisanit's villas, residents say. 'A few people, unemployed people from the settlement, and also outsiders are coming in and removing what they can from the houses,' said Aharon Mitrani, who shut down his shrapnel-pocked pizzeria two weeks ago. 'It's like vultures swooping onto a corpse.' Over the past two weeks, three- quarters of the 320 families that lived in Nisanit have packed up and left the town, says Mr Mitrani, one of the settlement's founding fathers 'Those who have children did not want their kids to have to go through the trauma of troops evicting them from their homes,' Mr Mitrani said. He sent his own children out two weeks ago and will be departing today for the northern town of Rosh Hanikra. Mr Mitrani will be carrying with him a residue of bitterness. 'You build up something from scratch, from sand dunes, you raise your children and make an exemplary town, you are a model citizen and suddenly they turn you into a zero, an invader, a fascist, a second-class citizen,' he said, referring to the government. In neighbouring Eilei Sinai, Thai labourers were uprooting residents' trees for replanting. Hardware stores in nearby Ashkelon have jacked up the prices for cartons and tape. The settlers of Eilei Sinai are planning a farewell ceremony tomorrow night and most plan to leave in one group by bus or in a caravan of cars as soon as the soldiers arrive to evacuate them.