About 1000 police and soldiers on Tuesday stormed into the Neve Dekalim settlement as hundreds of orange-clad protesters tried to block the path of several removal lorries.

 

Many were thrown to the floor in the violent pushing and shoving as settlers, most of them youngsters, threw themselves at the wall of police barring their way.

 

Up to 50 protesters were arrested, most of them dragged off screaming and kicking as the crowd howled in rage: "Jews don't evict Jews!"

 
Silent tears rolled down the face of one female soldier in the barricade as a young settler woman was knocked to the floor and nearly crushed under the feet of the raging crowd.

 

Many settlers, men and women, broke down in tears, while others were enraged. "Nazis! Shame on you," spat one religious man.

Protesters ejected

Israeli police forced open the
main gate of Neve Dekalim

Israeli police ejected the 50 detainees from the Gaza Strip,
the first expulsions from settlements in the occupied territory since the start of Israel's planned pullout, officials said.

Police said the demonstrators, all non-residents detained
during scuffles at the main settlement of Neve Dekalim, had been taken into Israel and offered release on the condition they agree not to try to return to the Gaza enclaves. 
 
A police spokeswoman said only four detainees had refused
and were being kept in custody. Hundreds of other protesters
remained in a standoff with security forces in Neve Dekalim. 

Deadline

 

Israeli police had used a bulldozer and bolt cutters to break down the gates into the settlement to enable about 120 removal vans to enter Neve Dekalim.

 

Removal vans entered the
settlement on Tuesday

A police spokesman said a decision had been made to forcibly enter Neve Dekalim to enable removal vans to have access to residents who wanted to leave of their own accord.

 

"We came in at around 7 am (0400 GMT) in order to allow 120 trucks to get inside for those who want to voluntarily evacuate. We are not going to allow anyone to stop them," he told AFP.

After midnight on Tuesday, settlers remaining in the Gaza Strip are to be removed by Israeli forces.

Neve Dekalim is the Gaza Strip's largest settlement and a key location for Jewish settlers resisting eviction.

Hundreds of activists, many of them youths, had blocked police from entering on Monday, and moving trucks struggled to get through the crowd.

Overnight arrests

Israeli police arrested about 500 Jewish extremists opposed to the Gaza Strip pullout who tried to sneak into the settlements on Monday night, triggering clashes, military radio said on Tuesday.

Israeli troops have faced fierce
resistance from settlers 

Parliamentary speaker Reuven Rivlin, who is opposed to the withdrawal, called on settlers "not to raise a hand against the security forces" during the historic operation, warning of the risk of "civil war".

Among those arrested were a number of known settler leaders opposed to the pullout, which began on Monday when Israel sealed off the Gaza Strip and began issuing evacuation orders to settlers, the radio said.

An Israeli army officer was wounded in the clashes, the radio said, adding that another 250 settlers were forced away from the area without being arrested.

The protesters were arrested near the Kissufim entry point between Israel and Gush Katif, the main bloc of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Later, an Israeli official said on Tuesday that nearly half the residents of the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip had left, hours before the expiration of an ultimatum to leave.
   
"This plan is going as scheduled. Close to 50% of the residents have left," pullout coordinator Eival Giladi told a news conference. "I would say that in a few days, there will be no Jewish settlers or infiltrators left in Gaza."