Protesters block army Jeep (WND photo)
GUSH KATIF BLOCK, Gaza – Israel’s evacuation of Jewish communities from Gaza and parts of Samaria officially began tonight with the complete closing of the Gaza Strip just a few moments ago, while residents here blocked army vehicles headed toward their communities, and Hamas fired mortars and shot at soldiers.
Israeli forces at midnight local time locked the gates to the Kissufim Crossing, the main entrance into Gaza’s Gush Katif slate of Jewish neighborhoods. Signs were posted in both Hebrew and English warning against entering the Gaza Strip. All entrances to the area, including Palestinian sections, are for now closed.
Tomorrow morning, soldiers and police officers plan to go door to door to deliver eviction notices informing residents they have 48 hours to leave their homes on their own accord, or they will be removed by force.
Tuesday, 50,000 soldiers and police officers are slated to form six rings in and around Gush Katif. The first ring, consisting of some 20,000 forces, mostly police, will be sent into the Jewish communities to carry out the actual evacuation. About 17 to 20 officers per Katif home will be used to physically drag occupants onto waiting buses and out of the area.
Most towns here, with the exception of three isolated Katif settlements, are currently still filled with residents and an estimated 7,000 protesters scattered in tents and community buildings throughout the area.
After the Kissufim crossing was closed, protests broke out at the main gate, and on the access road outside Neve Dekalim, the largest Katif settlement. Dekalim residents threw themselves atop several army and police vehicles headed in the direction of their community.
“Don’t uproot us. Refuse orders,” one woman screamed as she stood in front of an army Jeep.
Teenagers, including non-residents who managed to infiltrate the area the past few weeks, gathered around two army trucks and began pounding at the windows.
“Jews do not evacuate Jews,” a crowd of about 80 children chanted.
No one was reported hurt in the Dekalim clashes. The IDF neither responded nor sent reinforcements to the scene.
The Dekalim protest ended after community leaders and civilian security agents directed the crowd to return to their town.
Ami Shaked, the Katif security chief, told WND, “Tensions are very high tonight. Gaza was just closed. The army knows not to send in a large number of forces right now, it will only inflame things.”
Protests at Kissufim dissipated after police made several arrests.
As the protests were ending, Hamas terrorists launched two mortars at Neve Dekalim, and opened fire at Kfar Darom, a town just outside Gush Katif. Five soldiers were wounded in the Darom shooting.
Tonight’s Hamas attacks highlight fears the Gaza evacuation will be carried out under fire. The Israeli public has stated in multiple opinion polls they would not support any withdrawal activities during Palestinian attack.
In a rare press conference this morning, Hamas leaders declared the withdrawal a victory for terrorism, and vowed to continue fighting Israel until “all territories” are “liberated.”
“Hamas remains committed to the choice of resistance. Hamas remains committed to its military wing and its right to possess weapons,” said Hamas spokesman Ismail Haniyye.
Hamas spokesman Abu Anas declared, “We will keep our weapons in hand until we liberate all our land. Gaza is the beginning. We will not lay down our weapons after the Zionists withdraw from Gaza because the road ahead is long.”
Earlier, 1,000 masked Hamas terrorists trained in front of television cameras to infiltrate and attack Gush Katif. Some analysts claimed it was a publicity stunt, while others warned it may be a sign of what is to come.
One IDF official told WND, “There is little doubt Hamas will try to attack inside. They have to show their supporters they are driving out Israel. We are worried about a major rocket onslaught, and the possibility of terrorists infiltrating through tunnels into settlements and carrying out suicide attacks.”