Gaza protesters arrested as Israeli army moves in to dismantle settlements

The Israeli army started moving into the Jewish enclaves of Gaza last night in the opening stage of its first-ever operation to dismantle settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.

A thousand troops and police entered Neve Dekalim, the largest Gaza settlement, four hours ahead of the midnight deadline for the voluntary departure of Gaza's 8,500 settlers. The historic operation began after a day in which security forces had dismantled the settlement's gate to open the road and contain sporadic rioting by hundreds of pro-settler demonstrators.

About 50 demonstrators were arrested as they burnt tyres and rubbish skips, threw eggs and paint bombs, and scuffled with police officers in an attempt to block the path of about 50 trucks ordered for the 100 families in the settlement ­ out of 450 ­ who said they were ready to leave before the deadline.

One police photographer was injured in Neve Dekalim when liquid believed to be ammonia was thrown in his eyes after he confronted demonstrators.

Elsewhere in the Gush Katif concentration of settlements, three evacuees in Pe'at Sadeh torched their homes with firebombs and black smoke could be seen rising from Bedolah, where settlers had set fire to three nursery warehouses.

Young far-right opponents of the withdrawal were gathering with supplies of food last night at two adjacent synagogues as they prepared for the security forces to arrive. The army is keen to clear Neve Dekalim of infiltrators, which it estimates at anything between 1,000 and 2,500. Major General Dan Harel, the Israeli Defence Force's southern commander, said last night that Neve Dekalim would be among the first to be evacuated from today. Soldiers there began knocking on settlers' doors last night urging them to leave before they were evicted forcibly.

Demonstrators, who staged a series of sit-down protests to block the lorries, again shouted abuse at police, who brought up water cannon to put out a fire in a rubbish skip, one of three strewn across the main road into Neve Dekalim.

But police liaising with senior army officers forced the demonstrators back amid a series of running scuffles. As one woman police officer was led away in tears after exchanges with demonstrators, there were cries of "capo" ­ a reference to Jews in concentration camps who aided their German captors.

Although several young disengagement opponents gathered at the synagogues yesterday said they did not intend violence, one demonstrator, Zalman Deshiker, 21, who came to Gush Katif from Brooklyn, New York, three months ago to oppose the disengagement, declared: "They are moving Jews from their homes like the Nazis. The only thing I can do is to stop it with my body. That's all I can think about."

Earlier Major General Israel Ziv, head of operations in the army's general staff, said in Neve Dekalim that the infiltrators would be moved out today unless that disrupted arrangements to move out further settler families who might also be seeking to leave today in individual contacts with the army. General Ziv said that the fact that the demonstrators were in many cases teenagers would obviously affect the techniques used to clear them, but added: "There is a limit."

Through much of the day settlers relayed through loudspeakers a tape of a speech by the Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from 1974 ­ when the army was ordered to prevent the building of an unauthorised West Bank settlement ­ in which he appeared to condone soldiers refusing orders as a matter of individual conscience. But one middle-aged and bearded local man wearing a white prayer shawl was among several settlers' representatives who assisted police in trying to calm the protesters from outside Gaza.

At one of the two synagogues yesterday, Shlomit Soreh, 22, from a religious kibbutz near the Israeli town of Rehovot, said: "We are going to stay here until the army comes with the help of God."

Her brother Gilad, 22, said: "Nobody here knows exactly what is going to happen. But we do not want violence. That is very important to us."

During the protests which lasted late into the night as police sought to clear the roads round the synagogues and started to bring in prison buses for detained protesters, a group of mainly teenage demonstrators surrounded and pursued a sole, armed, army officer who refused to react as his tormentors taunted and hurled abuse at him wherever he walked. A tyre of at least one police bus was punctured.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence