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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?