In the final run-up to Israel’s midnight deadline for Jews to leave the Gaza Strip, there have been violent scuffles in the occupied territory’s largest enclave, Neve Dekalim. It has been the flashpoint of resistance against the pullout. Protesters had been blocking the main gate to the settlement and when soldiers removed it, opening up an access route to residents willing to leave, trouble predictably flared.
More than 50 youths were dragged away. Those arrested in the demonstration were all non-residents. They became the first people to be expelled from Gaza settlements since the withdrawal began on Monday. Hardliners are engaged in an increasingly desperate last stand. They know that from midnight onwards they will be removed by force. But while attention is focusing on those staying put, many people are leaving. In northern Gaza, Dugit, a largely secular settlement, became the first enclave in the territory to be completely evacuated. All 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza are being uprooted alongside four in the West Bank. Taking heed of warnings to go, many settlers are joining the exodus. With heavy hearts, they are packing up and heading out, taking their last opportunity to avoid what could be a major confrontation.