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Israel says West Bank evacuations complete
by reposted
Tuesday Aug 23rd, 2005 8:10 AM
Israel has evacuated the West Bank settlements of Sanur and Homesh, police said, completing the removal of settlers under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan for withdrawing from some occupied land.
As police on Tuesday declared the operation complete, they used a modified shipping container to lower last holdouts to the ground from the roof of an old British police station in Sanur.

Israel began its withdrawal last week from all 21 settlements in the occupied Gaza Strip and four of the 120 in the West Bank.

The evacuation from land Palestinians want for a state was completed well ahead of schedule. Despite widespread resistance from settlers and ultranationalist Jews, there has been little serious violence.
by BBC (reposted)
Tuesday Aug 23rd, 2005 8:11 AM
Israeli troops have completed the evacuation of settlers from the Gaza Strip and West Bank in line with PM Ariel Sharon's withdrawal plan.

After token resistance, the last to leave were protesters at the West Bank settlements of Sanur and Homesh.

All of the 8,500 or so settlers in Gaza were removed in a six-day operation that ended on Monday.

However, about 450,000 settlers remain in about 120 settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

It is the first time Israel has withdrawn from Palestinian land captured in the 1967 war.

But Mr Sharon says he will not give up the main settlement blocks - or halt settlement building as required by the US-backed roadmap peace plan.

The houses of the settlers are being demolished in agreement with the Palestinian Authority, which will assume responsibility for the land once the Israeli army has left.
by Haaretz (reposted)
Tuesday Aug 23rd, 2005 8:13 AM
Security forces completed the evacuation of the northern West Bank settlement of Sa-Nur on Tuesday afternoon when riot control troops were lifted in two containers and stormed the roof of the old British citadel to remove pullout opponents just after 3 P.M.

As protesters attempted to prevent the containers from landing on the roof, firefighters assisted security forces by directing high-pressure hoses at the protesters. Police in the containers eventually sprayed protesters with tear gas to disperse them and then landed on the rooftop.

Immediately after landing on the roof, officers videotaped those who had barricaded themselves on the roof, many of whom were armed with iron rods, ladders, long wooden poles and shields.

Troops then stood by quietly as the protesters, estimated to number between 30 and 40, prayed. All the protesters were to be arrested following the conclusion of the prayer session.

National Union lawmaker Aryeh Eldad, Yesha Council official Pinchas Wallerstein and Rabbi Lior Dov were among those on the barbed wire-adorned roof of the building.

"The last picture from Sa-Nur will be that of a Torah scroll inside a cage. With that picture, we will overthrow Sharon," Eldad said from the rooftop after the police raid, making reference to the lowering of protesters and Torah scrolls from the roof in shipping containers.

Security forces expected the evacuation of Sa-Nur, seen as a bastion of hard-line pullout opponents, to be particularly difficult. The Tuesday evacuation was carried out, however, with almost no violence.

On Tuesday morning, security forces had stormed two synagogues and the ground floor of the Sa-Nur citadel as part of the operation to clear the last two enclaves slated for evacuation under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan.

Soldiers, carrying shields and wearing helmets, had earlier used circular saws to cut open the iron door of the ground floor of the fort, where the fiercest opposition had been expected, and began removing the protesters inside.

One boy, aged about 10 years, kicked and shouted as he was carried off by four policemen.

Most of the families who lived in the settlement had departed earlier.

"There were 60 families in Sa-Nur but [few] are left now. What we're dealing with here is a huge number of infiltrators who make this much more a fight over ideology," an IDF spokesman, Jonathan Schroeder, said.

At the Chabad synagogue, troops from the Home Front Command and Border Police gathered at the door, which protesters had welded shut from inside. After a brief exchange, the troops moved to slice open the doors.

Inside the synagogue, around 20 ultra-Orthodox young men were sitting on the floor, while one man walked around, hugging a Torah scroll. A police commander was surrounded by weeping and chanting worshippers as he made one last appeal that they leave voluntarily.

The protesters were eventually taken out of the synagogue, some being forcibly removed by troops.

Police also moved into a larger house of worship, clearing out the dozens barricaded inside. The windows of the synagogue had been blocked by coils of barbed wire.

The evacuation operation began early Tuesday morning, when thousands of troops removed the gates of Sa-Nur and poured into the settlement and neighboring Homesh.

Within hours of entering the settlement, troops had cleared away the tents that had housed protesters from outside Sa-Nur, and the first families had been bused out.

Some settlers harangued soldiers. One confronted a woman officer, held up a portrait and said: "Here's my son, who was murdered by Palestinians, and now you want to expel his father."

The residents of one barricaded house were forcibly evacuated after troops removed the windows.

Electricity to the settlement was cut off Tuesday morning, due to fears that a blaze from burning tires in Sa-Nur would reach the power lines overhead.

Lines of police and soldiers, some in anti-riot gear, advanced through Sa-Nur.

Approaching troops were greeted by young women and girls praying in the streets wearing orange or yellow stars, invoking the treatment of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis.

By Tuesday morning, the settlement was home only to a few remaining residents, along with a crowd of "reinforcements," including many activists from the extreme-right Kach movement and members of the "hilltop youth" - known for their extremism and rejection of the government's authority.

Before dawn Tuesday, security forces arrested Rabbi Shlomo Eliyahu of Safed and one of his students, who intended to enter Sa-Nur, Israel Radio reported.

The two claimed to have permits to enter the settlement, but the troops refused to let them through. Rabbi Eliyahu has made several extreme comments in the past, including calling on soldiers and police to refuse orders related to the disengagement plan.

Senior officers had initially expected opposition to be much fiercer than the scenes at Kfar Darom last week.

"Our problem is with these 'reinforcements,' two or three of whom arrived Monday night, who will not listen to the rabbis' instructions," GOC Central Command Major General Yair Naveh said Tuesday.

"It may well be that here we will find our next 'lone terrorist.' This is what is worrying us, and, unfortunately, it is out of our control. We are dealing with youths who, as they see it, just want to protect the Holy Land. Sometimes, they cross the lines of what is legitimate."

Sa-Nur secretary Yossi Dagan said reports about the protesters' plans to use violence could be chalked up to attempts by security forces to manipulate the public, and said the right-wing activists would resist the evacuation in a reasonable manner.

Five youths, as well as a couple and their ten children, left Sa-Nur voluntarily Monday. They asked to leave the settlement before the outbreak of possible violent resistance during the evacuation of the settlement, and police escorted them to a bus that transported them out.

The residents of Ganim and Kadim, the two other settlements in the northern West Bank to be evacuated, have already left voluntarily. Demolition of houses in Ganim began Tuesday morning.
by Daily Star, Lebanon
Wednesday Aug 24th, 2005 6:46 AM
Israel completed a withdrawal of 15,000 Jewish settlers and supporters from occupied land after police ejected ultra nationalist protesters making last stands in two West Bank enclaves. U.S. President George W. Bush, speaking after the last two settlements were evacuated, called for a return to the internationally sponsored peace "road map" that envisages the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.

"But I understand that in order for this process to go forward there must be confidence: confidence that the Palestinian people would have in their own government to perform; the confidence with the Israelis that they'll see a peaceful state emerging," Bush said in Donnelly, Idaho.

"And, therefore, it's very important for the world to stay focused on Gaza and helping ... the Gaza economy get going, helping rebuild the settlements for Gaza, for the people of Gaza," Bush said.

He said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "has made a commitment to fight off the violence because he understands a democracy can't exist with terrorist groups trying to take the law into their own hands."

Bush stopped short of calling on Abbas to dismantle the groups after Israel's withdrawal.

Bush also called for a renewed push to consolidate Palestinian security forces. He said these forces were divided into factions and were not designed to "protect the overall security of the Palestinian people."

"This is a very hopeful period. Again I applaud Prime Minister [Ariel] Sharon for making a decision that has really changed the dynamics on the ground," Bush said.

Abbas telephoned Israeli President Moshe Katsav to congratulate him on the settlement evacuations, a Palestinian official said.

Predictions of long, tough resistance to evacuation proved wrong just as they did in Gaza, where troops cleared out settlers from all 21 enclaves two weeks ahead of schedule in a move to "disengage" from conflict with Palestinians.

Police stormed a citadel and synagogues in the Sanour and Homesh enclaves fortified by some 1,000 radicals, drawing a hail of bottles, light bulbs, paint, ketchup, eggs, tomatoes, cooking oil and flour in their effort to extract diehard settlers.

Some were plucked from a synagogue roof in the scoop of one of the bulldozers that had rammed through barriers of burning tires and rubbish at the gates to neighboring Sanour and Homesh.

There was a brief melee on one Homesh house roof after police, holding up shields to deflect projectiles hurled by youths, scaled ladders and scrambled over a razor-wire barricade to tackle the protesters.

As the operation was declared complete, police grabbed last holdouts on the roof of an old citadel and pushed them kicking and screaming into a shipping container that was then lowered by crane to a waiting bus.

Israel's army chief, Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz, said demolitions of vacant settler homes would be finished in 10 days and a follow-up military pullout from Gaza "will be accomplished during September ... I believe close to the end of September."

All of Gaza would then come under Palestinian rule. Israel plans to retain security control in the northern West Bank.

Palestinians want Israel to hand over all of the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem for their capital. But Sharon has vowed to keep all of Jerusalem and large West Bank settlements where some 230,000 Jews live among 2.4 million Palestinians.

Polls show a majority of Israelis favor Sharon's strategy.

Hundreds of radical teenagers had slipped into Sanour and Homesh from other West Bank settlements to bolster a few dozen leftover residents holding out against evacuation.

But thousands of troops and police needed only hours to overwhelm resistance and there was little full-blown violence.

Security forces dispensed with patient negotiations used in Gaza, swiftly rooting out radicals barricaded in three synagogues, a seminary, the citadel and houses by breaking in with circular saws, pile-drivers, sledgehammers and ladders.

They found teenagers prone on synagogue floors, arms entwined. Wrestling matches ensued as police began prising apart screaming youngsters to haul them out to buses.

But most resident settlers in both enclaves vacated their homes without disturbance, walking in resignation to the buses. Others, mounting passive resistance, were carried out.

Nineteen members of security forces and five settlers were wounded in confrontations and 40 protesters were arrested.

Earlier, settlers voluntarily vacated two other West Bank enclaves included in Sharon's withdrawal plan. - Agencies