- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2005

JERUSALEM — Israeli female soldiers performed better than male soldiers in the evacuation of settlers from the Gaza Strip in August, according to a study carried out by the army.

Although news media cameras focused on female soldiers crying from the emotional stress of removing women and children from their homes, the study shows that they dealt with a greater number of violent confrontations than did their male colleagues and handled the challenge more efficiently.

“Reality was different from what we expected,” said a senior officer. “The women dealt with it really well.”

The army command had feared that many of the thousands of female soldiers involved would buckle under the physical and emotional strain because they have less experience with difficult physical conditions than male soldiers.

In the evacuation of some 8,000 settlers and 5,000 infiltrators, the female soldiers — almost all 18- and 19-year-old draftees — had the task of escorting or carrying women and children to the buses taking them from the Gaza Strip. The evacuees included a large number of young female infiltrators, mostly from religious schools.

These resisted more forcefully than their male counterparts, the study found, “perhaps because they knew that less force would be used against them, perhaps because most religious women don’t serve in the army and have less respect for it.”

This often placed the female soldiers in higher-stress situations than male soldiers were experiencing. They responded by forming ad hoc “women only” groups for the task at hand. While individual male soldiers evacuated four or five persons on average during the weeklong evacuation, the smaller number of female soldiers evacuated between six and 10. Although some female soldiers wept from the emotional stain, so did male soldiers.

The study, carried out by army psychologists and operational officers, is expected to offer guidance if further large-scale evacuations are carried out on the West Bank.

Meanwhile, amid growing chaos in the Palestinian Authority, the spokesman for the Palestinian Interior Ministry, Tawfuk Abu Khoussa, said Thursday that more Palestinians have been killed so far this year by other Palestinians than by Israel.

Internal Palestinian violence, which accounted for 43 deaths in 2002 when the Palestinians were focused on the confrontation with Israel, has accounted for 151 so far this year as the confrontation with Israel subsides. According to Palestinian researcher Majed Arouri, the number killed so far this year by Israel is 140.

“The security situation is deteriorating in a very dangerous way, with no one putting a stop to it,” deputy parliament Speaker Hassan Khreisheh told the Associated Press.

The Palestinian parliament this week called on President Mahmoud Abbas to disband his Cabinet within two weeks and form a new government dedicated to imposing law and order. Similar demands are being voiced even louder by the Palestinian man in the street, particularly in the Gaza Strip, where rival factions of militants openly flout the authority of the security forces.

But the West Bank, too, is shaken by lawlessness. The wife of an engineering professor from A-Najah University in Nablus, Riad al-Raz, known to be affiliated with Hamas, reported his kidnapping this week by armed men. Palestinian sources said the kidnapping was part of an internal dispute, not an Israeli detention.

“Chaos is the most dangerous threat Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are facing now,” Palestinian analyst Hani al-Masri told the AP. “If the Palestinian Authority doesn’t take hard steps to protect us from chaos, it will collapse.”

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