Israeli troops smash their way into last two settlements

The security forces broke the back of the resistance at the two militant hilltop settlements of Homesh and Sa-nur in what had been seen as potentially the most difficult phase of an operation which has now boosted the Israeli Prime Minister's standing by being executed way ahead of schedule.

While predictions that protesters would use firearms did not prove correct, the police and the army encountered more determined civil disobedience, barricading of houses and other buildings, and other forms of - mainly - passive resistance than they had in most of the Gaza settlements evacuated last week.

The army said last night that one man had been arrested after attempting to stab a soldier at the religious college here, and there had been a second stabbing attempt somewhere else. By nightfall, the only protesters left were two in Homesh who had clambered up a 30 metre pylon to shout anti-disengagement slogans.

In the last stand against the disengagement process - which began in earnest only a week ago - some of the opponents, mainly drawn from extreme-right youth in other West Bank settlements and in Israel, had coiled barbed wire round houses and public buildings, pelted police and soldiers with eggs, paint, flour and lightbulbs and set fire to skips and at least one car.

In two houses where dozens of clapping, singing religious teenage girls held second-storey sit-ins, the stairs had been destroyed to make their arrest more perilous. In one house police were obliged to create a makeshift staircase of breeze blocks, and in the other a ladder, to bring down the teenage girls, after a local rabbi failed in his reluctant efforts to persuade them to come down.

Several men and women were carried out struggling from their houses after troops broke down the barricaded doors. The overwhelming majority of the 1,320 people removed from the two settlements were infiltrators.

Security forces were forced to lay down a limestone coating on the main roads into and through the settlement after protesters poured oil to slow their advance. In Sa-nur police used teargas as they cleared the roof of the old British police station which protesters were using as their redoubt.

The turning point at Homesh came when specialist border police with visors and riot shields stormed up ladders to cut a two-meter barbed wire fence erected around the roof of the settlement's synagogue where a dozen young adults and children had been leading the verbal abuse and egg-throwing at security forces.

After moving on to the roof the police called up a bulldozer to take the handcuffed adults in its scooped bucket to the ground below. Police forced open the doors of both the synagogue and the religious college next door shortly afterwards and dragged out around 40 protesters from inside.

As the army chief of staff General Dan Halutz said that the demolition of 2,500 houses in Gaza would take place within 10 days, it was clear that the speed of the disengagement has confounded predictions, first that it would not take place at all, and then that it would be a protracted and violent process.

Mr Sharon intends to exploit the success by addressing the UN General Assembly in New York next month. But by breaking the taboo on dismantling any of the settlements, which have grown relentlessly since Israel's seizure of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967, the process may fuel international - and some domestic - calls for larger evacuations in the West Bank.

Mr Sharon could seek to deflect such pressure by fulfilling his long-standing promise to the US to dismantle illegal outposts - effectively new mini-settlements which are not openly authorised by the government. The Jerusalem Post reported yesterday that he was "likely" to start dismantling outposts within 90 days.

At the same time Mr Sharon has repeatedly told his restive Likud party that he intends no further unilateral disengagement and this week once again repeated that building would continue within the largest semi-urban settlement blocks on the West Bank.

The mood of the opposition at Homesh and Sa-nur yesterday may have been affected by the repeated predictions of settlers leaders on the Yesha Council - in the face of equally repeated denials by Mr Sharon - that the evacuations there were the first of many more in the West Bank.

One mother, who would give her name only as Orly and came to Homesh three months ago to join the anti-disengagement protests with her four children, said: "It is horrible that we destroy our lands, our synagogue, that we destroy our homes. The Palestinians will be happy when they see this."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Service Desk Manager

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity to join a p...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor / Assistant Quantity Surveyor

£23698 - £30978 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This not-for-profit company man...

Recruitment Genius: Bench Joiner / Machinist - Full time or Freelance

£22000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Bench Joiner / Machinist is r...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£17000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This children's clothing compan...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones