Settlement evacuation in Gaza Strip continues ”faster than estimated”
Violent clashes erupted on Wednesday between Israeli troops and settlers after large crowds of protesters fought with troops attempting to evacuate them from their homes in the Gaza Strip.
As of Wednesday afternoon, three Gaza Strip settlements have been evacuated - Ganei Tal, Kerem Atzmon, and Tel Katifa - where soldiers reportedly forced one teenage settler down from the water tower where he remained, insisting on remaining in the settlement.
Despite the friction, resistance to soldiers has reportedly eased in most locations, according to Israeli Police Chief Moshe Karadi.
Karadi expressed hope that dialogue between settlers and soldiers, who had been apparently training for weeks for the removal of settlers, would help the situation. "We hope dialogue will help,” he said.
He added that based on the current pace of the evacuation which is apparently faster than Israel had estimated, the pullout may end "sooner than planned."
One factor which may have calmed resistance was an announcement by one of the settler movement's rabbis, considered the "ideological stronghold" of the Gush Katif settler movement, to leave the settlements voluntarily.
Fierce clashes between soldiers and settlers
Earlier in the day, some settlers burned tires and garbage, while others threw eggs and water bottles at soldiers. Police forces arrested at least 60 protesters, forcing them on to buses.
Dozens of settlers barricaded themselves in one of the Gaza strip's synagogues in the settlement of Morag. Many settlers screamed at soldiers who attempted to remove them from their homes. Some settlers reportedly took a hammer to their homes, in attempt to destroy them before they were forces to leave.
In one case, police teams were forced to remove obstacles placed to prevent them from entering and removing the settlers.
Clashes began after Israeli forces on Wednesday moved into Neveh Dekalim, the biggest settlement of the Gaza Strip, as well as the isolated enclave of Morag, in order to evacuate settlers.
More than 15,000 police officers and soldiers were being deployed in "Gush Katif" settlement bloc as of Wednesday morning, to begin the forced evacuation of the settlements.
According to Haaretz, a senior aide to Iasraeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said early Wednesday that all or nearly all of the 21 Gaza Strip settlements could be evacuated within 48 hours.
© 2005 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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