Sharon vows West Bank colony growth

Israeli troops went house to house in Netzarim to empty the last remaining Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip, even as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon spoke of expanding settlements in the West Bank.

Settlers remove the menorah from the synagogue in Netzarim
Settlers remove the menorah from the synagogue in Netzarim

Also on Monday, security forces prepared for possible violence in militant West Bank settlements.

The Jerusalem Post newspaper on Monday quoted Sharon as saying Israel would continue to build in the West Bank, reiterating a policy that has put him into conflict with the United States.

“There will be building in the settlement blocs,” The Jerusalem Post quoted Sharon as saying, referring to large settlements in the West Bank such as Maaleh Adumim, outside Jerusalem, and Ariel, not far from Tel Aviv.

“The Ariel bloc will remain a part of Israel forever, connected territorially to Israel,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Sharon has said he hopes the Gaza pullout will help Israel hold on to the settlement blocs in any future peace deal.

An Israeli tank is positioned in a Gaza City near Netzarim

An Israeli tank is positioned in a
Gaza City near Netzarim

The forcible evacuations in Gaza have proceeded far more quickly than expected and with little violence.

That could change as the evacuation operation turns northward to the West Bank. Residents have already pulled out of two of the four settlements to be emptied, but as many as 2000 right-wing extremists – most non-residents – have holed up in the two others, Sanur and Homesh.

About 5500 forces were to be deployed to those settlements to carry out the evacuations, police spokesman Avi Zelba said.

Security officials said those settlements were likely to be evacuated on Tuesday.

Palestinian security forces in the area of the settlements were deploying to prevent attacks during the pullout, Palestinian officials said.

Clearing last settlement

Back in Gaza, workers removed a Jewish candelabra, or menorah, from the roof of Netzarim’s synagogue before troops entered to evacuate about 600 residents and an unknown number of sympathisers.

The secretary of Netzarim, Eliahu Uzan, said the community was resigned to its fate. 

Israeli bulldozers destroy buildings in the evacuated Dugit settlement

Israeli bulldozers destroy buildings
in the evacuated Dugit settlement

“We know what will happen,” Uzan told Channel 1 TV. “We have come to terms with this, unless there is an exceptional miracle. We know that apparently tonight we won’t be there.”

Some residents continued with their everyday lives. Workers poured cement to create a foundation for the roof of the Meshulami family’s new house.

“As long as the state of Israel hasn’t left here, we need to continue with the little bit of life that we have left,” Uzan said.

The community, he says, deplored the notion of clashes with evacuation troops.

“In this community, there was never violence, and there never will be,” Uzan said.


Three youths who had come to Netzarim to resist the evacuation were arrested on Sunday in possession of metal spikes, oil, barbed wire and paint, the police commander in charge of the evacuation, Hagai Doton, said in Netzarim on Monday.

Forces began evacuating the 21 Gaza settlements on Wednesday, more than a year after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon concluded Israel could no longer defend its 38-year-old occupation of the coastal strip, which Palestinians claim as part of a future state.

A Palestinian girl watches Fatah supporters celebrate the pullout

A Palestinian girl watches Fatah
supporters celebrate the pullout

After the settlements are evacuated and demolished, Israel is to turn Gaza over to Palestinian control for the first time.

But while Palestinians and others in the international community are pushing for a quick renewal of talks, Sharon conditioned progress on a halt to Palestinian violence and said Israel would continue building in the West Bank, where most of its more than 240,000 settlers live.

Zero tolerance

Meanwhile, Israeli Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra said officials would exhibit no tolerance for people who resist evacuation forces.

“We hope that most of the weapons [in Homesh and Sanur] have been collected,” Ezra told Israel Radio on Monday.

“We will deal with people with zero tolerance and all those who try to face off with the army will ultimately find themselves in jail.”

As troops prepared to wrap up the Israeli withdrawals, displaced settlers from Gaza were setting up two tent camps just outside the coastal strip on Monday to protest what they said was the government’s failure to provide alternate housing, Army Radio reported.

Sharon has called the establishment of tent camps a political ploy to create sympathy, and says there is ample compensation and housing for evacuated settlers.

Source: News Agencies

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