- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 14, 2005

NEVE DEKALIM, Gaza Strip — Settler youths confronted police outside Gaza’s largest settlement last night as security forces moved in at midnight to seal off Israeli communities ahead of this week’s evacuation that will end a 38-year military occupation.

About 100 angry youths surrounded several jeeps carrying policemen at the entrance to Neve Dekalim, puncturing tires and breaking windows. Maps of the area were pulled from the vehicles, strewn about and burned.

The young people refused to back off, even when popular Rabbi Shlomo Aviner climbed onto the hood of one disabled jeep with a megaphone and appealed for them to disperse.

“We can control them pretty well, but not fully,” said Knesset member Uri Ariel, an opponent of the withdrawal who was at the scene. After about a half-hour, settler leaders cleared the way for the disabled jeep to drive away on its rims.

Security forces sealed off 21 Jewish settlements at midnight, simultaneously dispatching armored personnel carriers to guard the communities against Palestinian attacks. Today, they were to begin delivering eviction notices to settlers still in their homes, raising the threat of further confrontations with settlers determined to keep security forces out of their communities.

Many of the 9,000 residents of the communities have left, but a steady flow of resisters has taken their place, complicating the job for the military.

The army thinks that 5,000 anti-disengagement activists have infiltrated the Gaza settlements in recent weeks, almost doubling previous estimates. Outsiders officially have been barred from entering the settlements for a month.

“In the end, even three or four or even 5,000 people will not prevent the Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli police from carrying out the law of the Knesset, and the decision of the Cabinet,” said military chief of staff Dan Halutz. “They may make it more colorful, but I hope they do not make it more violent.”

The withdrawal marks the first time since the 1967 Middle East War that Israel has surrendered territories claimed by Palestinians as part of their future state. Settlers and conservative allies have assailed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a dictator and the disengagement as an immoral expulsion.

Palestinian security forces, along with several Egyptian officers, also began deploying near Jewish settlements in Gaza yesterday. By today, thousands of Palestinian troops will be deployed near settlements to prevent militants from reaching the area, the Associated Press reported.

The first settlements slated to be evacuated are the isolated enclaves of Netzarim, Morag and Kfar Darom. Israelis remaining inside the settlements will get a two-day grace period before police and soldiers are sent in to physically extract them.

In advance of the eviction notices, anti-disengagement activists distributed posters to tape on settlers’ doors urging soldiers and police officers to disobey the disengagement orders.

“If you knock on the door, you will be a direct accomplice to the worst crime in the history of the people of Israel. Don’t do that,” the notices said.

Resistance groups yesterday tried to lock the gates of the settlements. Activists were instructed by settler leaders over the weekend to block the soldiers’ advance by standing at the entry gate and reading from the Book of Psalms.

“We’ll stop them,” said Rafi Seri, a resistance organizer among the settlers. “Every minute we delay them, every hour we slow them down is a success that could prevent the expulsion plan from being carried out.”

Moving trucks crowded the roads of Neve Dekalim despite the resistance effort, but some had their tires slashed for the second day in a row. Infiltrators have been given earplugs in case the army uses “screamer” sound devices to disorient protesters.

Settler leaders have urged followers not to use violence, but concerns remain.

“I say that the Land of Israel is more important than the army,” said Nitai Wolfson, a 20-year-old resident of the West Bank who has been living in Gaza for two months. The disengagement “is going to be crazy. I think there’s going to be a civil war.”

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