Israeli forces are pressing ahead with forced evacuations of Jewish settlements in Gaza where several enclaves are now totally or nearly empty. In the largest of them, however, some hardliners are bracing themselves for what could be one last stand. There were hopes a deal could be reached in Neve Dekalim in which settlers would leave after a final prayer service.
Earlier, some 60 pullout protesters were arrested there amid clashes with security forces. Most are said to be non-residents. More than half of all settlers, however, were said to have left their Gaza homes even before the deadline of midnight on Tuesday.
All 21 Gaza enclaves are being uprooted along with four in the West Bank. One West Bank settler woman opposed to the withdrawal set herself on fire at a checkpoint outside Gaza, suffering burns to 60 percent of her body. While at Morag, a female soldier was reported stabbed with a syringe and lightly wounded.
The Israeli army later announced it had completed the evacuation of Morag, making it the first of the strongholds of settler resistance to be emptied. Ariel Sharon today said his heart was broken on watching the pullout progress. The Israeli prime minister called on protesters not to hurt security forces but to hurt him instead – saying he was responsible.