Broken pipes and shredded insulation are hanging from the ceilings. There is no glass in the window frames, no telephones, no room keys and little functional plumbing. But the Mediterranean view is spectacular.
Jewish activists are turning this abandoned resort on the sun-bleached seashore here into a center of resistance to Israel's plan to pull out of the Gaza Strip this summer -- and, in the process, revealing cracks in the settler movement between moderates and radicals.
About 30 families have moved into the former Palm Beach Hotel, renamed Strength of the Sea by its new occupiers, and 110 others have moved into Jewish settlements in other parts of Gaza, according to the resistance campaign's organizers. They are planning to receive hundreds more resisters before the Israeli army launches its landmark operation in August to remove all 21 settlements in the Palestinian territory.
The organizers, who briefed reporters here Wednesday in front of the reception desk in the shell of the former lobby, said they would use nonviolent civil disobedience to oppose their eviction.
"We believe that if enough people come here, the security forces will not be able to evacuate all of them and the operation will stop," said Datya Yitzhaki, leader of the campaign, which calls itself the Opposition Authority.
But the group's ranks include two leaders of the outlawed Kach movement -- a Jewish extremist organization designated a terrorist group by the State Department -- who said they were prepared to take any steps necessary to defeat the army's plan. "In every place they want to evacuate Jews, there will be a struggle -- not only here," said Itamar Ben-Gvir, a Kach leader who has moved into the former resort with his wife. "I assume they will have to take me out in a coffin."
There are about 8,500 settlers in Gaza, according to Israeli army figures, living among 1.3 million Palestinians. Most of the settlers are refusing to cooperate with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to evacuate them -- and the troops that protect them -- in return for compensation and relocation inside Israel. Many are hoping that the government will abandon its plan under popular pressure, although opinion polls show that a majority of Israelis favor what is widely being referred to as "the disengagement."
Government officials are hoping most will leave quietly after the withdrawal operation begins. But Yitzhaki, Ben-Gvir and other campaigners are hoping to mobilize settlers from Gaza and activists from both Israel and the West Bank, where Jewish settlers also live among majority Palestinians, in a coordinated resistance effort.
They are also hoping that soldiers will refuse orders to act against them. "There will be hundreds of thousands of soldiers who will refuse to evacuate us, who will say, 'I was recruited to the army to fight the Arab enemy and not to evacuate the Jews,' " said Nadia Mattar, a longtime settlement activist who moved here a few weeks ago with her husband and six children.
The army, which controls all access to the area through a series of heavily patrolled roads lined with razor wire, has not prevented activists from entering. An army spokeswoman said military officials were monitoring the situation closely but believed the number of activists moving into the area was relatively small.
"We know there are Kach members inside, and we're keeping a close eye on them," said the spokeswoman, who discussed the subject on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
She said the army planned to seal off the Gaza settlements to outsiders before the disengagement began on Aug. 15, but had not set a date. "The point for now is not to inconvenience, upset or harass people unnecessarily," she said. "For now, the situation is under control."
The resort is near the heart of Gush Katif, the largest settlement bloc in Gaza, but no official from the community attended the news conference Wednesday. Shlomo Wastrel, a spokesman for Gush Katif and a vocal critic of the disengagement campaign, said settlers were wary of the activists at the beach resort.
Gush Katif's residents are trying to win support from mainstream Israelis by carrying on with their daily lives "as though nothing has happened -- continuing to plant flowers, continuing to manufacture -- that's what's important," Wastrel said. If the activists proceed "to make provocations, we know where all the attention will go. This is what we fear, and this is what our opponents would like to see happen here."
The Palm Beach Hotel was opened in 1986 by settlers who hoped to turn it into a thriving tourist resort for Orthodox Jews throughout Israel. But the first Palestinian uprising, or intifada, which began in December 1987, throttled those hopes, and the second, which began in September 2000, led to the resort's abandonment.
Thieves stripped lights, faucets and other fixtures from the rooms, and vandals broke windows and kicked in plaster walls. Young squatters attracted to the beach and its excellent surfing potential took over some of the two-story villas.
Yitzhaki and her supporters began moving in two months ago. Using money raised here and abroad, they hired a handful of contractors to begin renovations. Among them was Gedalia Ginzburg, 63, a plumber from the Gush Etzion settlement in the West Bank. He had come last week to work on repairing sinks, toilets and bathtubs, he said, and decided to move in, along with his wife and some of his eight children and nearly 20 grandchildren.
Ginzburg is a veteran of the 1982 evacuation of Yamit, a Jewish settlement in the occupied Sinai Peninsula, where several thousand settlers were evicted by the army as part of the Camp David peace accords with Egypt. He said he believed that the Yamit operation had ruined the health of the prime minister at the time, Menachem Begin, and that the Gaza evacuation would do the same to Sharon.
Ginzburg said he warned one of his sons, who is attending an officer training course, against participating in the Gaza operation.
He said his son had cried. "He wants very much to be an officer in the paratroopers and he's afraid he'll be thrown out, so he and many of his friends are keeping quiet. But I am sure they don't want to do it."
Special correspondent Samuel Sockol contributed to this report.