Israeli troops prevail: Last holdouts give up
The 6,000 Israeli police and soldiers met limited resistance.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
SANUR, West Bank -- Armed with a motley arsenal ranging from ketchup to sharpened spikes, the last holdouts in two Jewish settlements briefly battled Israeli troops Tuesday before surrendering, putting the final seal on the uprooting of 25 communities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israeli police and soldiers evacuated 1,329 settlers and their supporters from the remote West Bank communities of Sanur and Homesh before declaring their mission accomplished. About 30 troops suffered minor injuries, as did about a dozen protesters.
Fears that the final day of the pullout would flare into serious violence proved unfounded. Only token resistance was offered to 6,000 Israeli police and soldiers who moved in at first light, bulldozing their way through the yellow-painted settlement gates.
Police rushed the rooftop of a former British Mandate-era fortress in Sanur, overcoming three dozen protesters whose daylong vigil represented the final standoff between Jewish settlers and those assigned to remove them.
In the end, about 60 police in riot gear were lifted by crane inside a cargo container to the roof, where they quickly subdued protesters with high-pressure jets from a fire hose.
What was done
Soldiers, unarmed but carrying shields and wearing helmets, had earlier used circular saws to cut open the iron doors of the ground floor of the fort, where the fiercest opposition had been expected. One boy of about 10 kicked and shouted as he was carried off by four policemen.
Most of the families who lived in the settlement had departed earlier.
The encounter capped what authorities had feared might be a violent confrontation with activist youths in Sanur and neighboring Homesh. Two other West Bank settlements, Ganim and Kadim, were already empty after residents had agreed to go on their own.
Worries quickly evaporated that the protesters, mostly teenagers from elsewhere in the West Bank, might have stockpiled weapons. The teens had adopted a swaggering attitude in the hours before troops arrived, slashing tires of media vehicles and turning away some arrivals at the settlement gate.
Leaders in Sanur said they had collected weapons, some of them army-issued, the previous week and had pledged beforehand that there would be no violence. The activists gathered atop the fort used long poles to poke at containers carrying police but were easily overpowered.
In Homesh, police used an improvised ladder fashioned from a broken fence to scale the rooftop where about 20 youngsters were holed up. With nudging, the protesters stepped onto the raised blade of a front-end loader, leaving behind police officers smeared with paint, eggs and ketchup.
"We're closing a chapter," said army Brig. Gen. Tal Russo, calling the minor clashes "on the level the settlers deserve to be able to protest."
Here was the scene
In the early hours, the standoffs had elements of a medieval siege, with protesters scattering spikes and cooking oil on the road to try to slow down the inexorable advance of the Israeli forces. Acrid smoke from trash fires and burning barricades filled the air.
From nearby hilltops, Palestinians watched the melee with binoculars and distributed sweets in celebration when it became clear the settlers were leaving.
"We lived in total fear," said Saleh Hantouli, the mayor of the adjoining Palestinian town of Silat Al-Dahr. The settlers' presence, he said, "was a nightmare, and now we hope this nightmare will go away."
In the West Bank, Israeli troops will maintain control of the evacuated area, in contrast to Gaza, where the entire territory will be handed over to Palestinian authorities within a matter of weeks.
The final encounter of the settlement evacuation that began Aug. 15, when troops fanned out among the Gaza settlements, was initiated when about 3,000 police and soldiers entered Sanur, encountering trash fires and sharpened spikes strewn along the entrance road. But once inside, they met limited resistance compared to that mounted last week in Gaza.