There have been tense scenes as Israel embarks on its pullout from the Gaza Strip. With feelings running high, hardline settlers are holding their ground, determined to stay put despite soldiers presence.
They have until midnight on Tuesday to change their minds and leave their enclaves or face being removed by force. With the countdown on, the military is, for now, holding back from entering five settlements, seen as bastions of resistance. The move avoids early confrontation. The religious right condemns the pullout, arguing that it forsakes Jewish claims to biblical land and rewards Palestinian militants.
The evacuation of all 21 enclaves in Gaza and the 8,500 settlers who live in them is due to take two to three weeks. Four West Bank settlements are also being uprooted. The withdrawal is part of Israel’s efforts to “disengage” from some of the territory it captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
Some in Gaza have waited to be handed a formal eviction notice before packing up and moving out.
Protests take many forms. One resident smashed an axe into the wall of his home before walking out for the last time. A growing number of settlers are quitting Gaza.
Hundreds have signed state compensation deals to leave. Those who refuse to go could lose a third of the money.
Most Israelis approve of the pullout, if opinion polls are to be believed.
Settlers leaving their homes today, however, see things differently. Their feeling is of betrayal.