Israeli troops were greeted by burning barrages as they arrived in the Jewish settlement of Katif this morning to resume the evacuation of Gaza. The full-scale demolition of settlers’ homes has started after the disengagement operation was suspended to mark the Jewish Sabbath. Under prime minister Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal plan, all 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and a handful in the West Bank must be evacuated. Seventeen have been cleared so far. The process has gone much faster than anticipated but some hard-core residents and their supporters are refusing to leave.
Strong resistance is expected from right-wing extremists in the coming days. Many of the evacuated residents are being temporarily relocated in the West Bank, despite a Road Map pledge by Israel not to expand its settlements there. The streets of Neve Dekalim, one of the first enclaves to be evacuated, were quiet this morning, in contrast with violent scenes earlier this week when some residents had be removed by force.
Evacuation of the four West Bank settlements is scheduled for next week after the pullout from Gaza is completed. The land will then go to the Palestinians. This morning, Washington announced it would donate 25 million euros to help develop the Gaza Strip’s ailing infrastructure.