Da Ha'aretz del 22/08/2005
Originale su http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasen/spages/614900.html

Netzarim, last Gaza settlement, set to hold final prayers

di Amos Harel, Nir Hasson

Soldiers Monday entered homes in Netzarim, the last of the 21 Gaza Strip settlements, which is to be evacuated by the end of the day.

The era of settlement in the Gaza Strip will come to an end with the evacuation of the embattled settlement, the target of countless Palestinian terror attacks and the enclave which many had believed would be dismantled before all others.

Settlers are to hold a last communal worship service at 1:30 P.M., praying together with soldiers who guarded them over the years.

They are then expected to board armored buses for their departure, heading initially to the Western Wall in Jerusalem . There are currently 80 veteran families at the settlement, along with 20 families of newcomers, about 500 people in all.

Army Chief Dan Halutz visited Netzarim early Monday to meet with leaders of the settlement, who promised to work to rpevent violence during the evacuation.

But they added that there was a group of youths who had infiltrated into the settlement, and that the young protesters might not abide by the "ground rules" agreed upon by the army and the residents.

Settlers overnight called police to arrest and eject three right-wing activists who had written slogans on walls, including "Sharon, Hitler is proud of you," and "[Rabin assassin] Yigal Amir, we need you."

The three, who were found with paint, flammable liquids and tire-puncturing spikes in their possession, are a part of a group of up to six activists who apparently entered the settlement in the trunks of cars.


SYMBOL AND FLASHPOINT

Netzarim has long been a symbol and flashpoint for Israelis and Palestinians. Isolated and hard to defend, the enclave at times experienced daily Palestinian rifle and grenade fire. Settlers placed signs throughout Israel proclaiming "It is at Netzarim that Israel will triumph."

In the first month of the Intifada, Netzarim junction was the site of an Israeli-Palestinian exchange of fire which claimed the life of 12-year-old Muhammed Dura, the central Palestinian icon of the uprising.

Settlers have also asked that foreign press be excluded from Netzarim during the evacuation.

"We knew this day would come, but we will get over it and move on," said Netzarim Rabbi Eyal Vered. "We will win, but not with force. God forbid that blood will be spilled."

IDF Major General Dan Harel, overall military commander of the Gaza Strip pullout, indicated that he believed the Monday evacuation of Netzarim would proceed smoothly.

"Its brave residents have withstood years under the threat of terrorism, shoulder to shoulder with us. Both the residents of Netzarim and we paid with lives in defending the settlement," Harel said in remarks broadcast Monday.

"I am acquainted with the people of Netzarim, they are excellent people, people with values, and I know that the evacuation will be dignified, in a manner which is worthy also of them."


SEVEN SETTLEMENTS EVACUATED SUNDAY

The army and police Sunday completed the evacuation of settlers from Slav, Katif, Dugit, Neveh Dekalim, Atzmona, Elei Sinai and Nisanit. The security forces did not meet any major opposition from the evacuees.

Only the isolated central Gaza settlement of Netzarim remained to be evacuated, and that is scheduled to take place Monday.

The Yad Mordechai junction north of the Gaza Strip was closed to vehicular traffic last night as Elei Sinai and Nisanit settlers marched northward.

Residents of Katif, along with the soldiers who came to evacuate them, held a tearful final worship service Sunday before boarding buses and cars to leave the settlement. A parallel prayer service was held at the settlement of Atzmona, at the southern end of Gush Katif.

One of those who took the Torah scrolls out of the synagogue at the conclusion of the prayers was school principal David Hatuel, whose wife Tali and four daughters were killed in a Palestinian terror ambush last year.

Soldiers who arrived at Katif in the pre-dawn hours found the gates locked, as youths smoking cigarettes loitered around piles of flammable materials such as hay, tires and wooden planks, preparing for resistance.

Despite massive bales of straw set ablaze at the entrance to Katif in a bid to delay the evacuation, columns of police entered the settlement with the help of a bulldozer at around 10 A.M. Sunday.

On Katif's gate, scorched from a large protest pyre that blazed in the morning hours, residents hung a sign that read "We shall return soon."

Residents also spray-painted messages on their houses. "From this place, House No. 23, Itzik and Anat Cohen were expelled."

Troops entered Slav, Katif and Atzmona before noon Sunday. Later in the day, troops moved into Elei Sinai and Nisanit in the northern Strip.

Stiff resistance had been expected from some 1,000 residents and hundreds of illegal infiltrators still in the first three settlements, but no major opposition was met by the forces.

Closely following the evacuations, bulldozers Sunday razed more than 30 homes in Nissanit and Dugit in the northern Gaza Strip, marking the first large-scale demolitions during the disengagement.

Shortly afterward, house demolitions began in the Gush Katif settlement of Pe'at Sadeh.

More than 200 bulldozers are now in Gush Katif awaiting demolition orders.

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